10 UN peacekeepers killed in Mali attack

Since extremist militia took over northen Mali in 2012, the UN mission sent more than 13,000 blue-helmet peacekeepers. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2019
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10 UN peacekeepers killed in Mali attack

  • An attack at the same UN base last April killed two peacekeepers and left several others wounded
  • The Bamako government and armed groups signed a peace agreement in 2015 to restore stability

BAMAKO: Gunmen killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers and injured at least 25 others in an attack on a UN camp in northern Mali on Sunday, one of the deadliest strikes against the UN mission in the West African country.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was “in reaction” to the visit to Chad by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Mauritanian Al-Akhbar news agency, which regularly receives statements from this terrorist group.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned what he described as a “complex attack” on the camp in Aguelhok, in Kidal region and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
“Ten peacekeepers from Chad were killed and at least 25 injured,” said a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
The gunmen struck early Sunday at the Aguelhok base 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kidal and toward the border with Algeria, according to a source close to the MINUSMA mission.
“MINUSMA forces responded robustly and a number of assailants were killed,” Dujarric said, without specifying the toll.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the UN envoy for Mali, condemned what he called a “vile and criminal” attack.
“Peacekeepers of the MINUSMA force at Aguelhok fought off a sophisticated attack by assailants who arrived on several armed vehicles,” he said in a statement.
The attack “illustrates the determination of the terrorists to sow chaos.
“It demands a robust, immediate and concerted response from all forces to destroy the peril of terrorism in the Sahel.”

On Sunday, France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly told French radio that the G5 Sahel anti-terrorist force in the region was resuming its operations.
They were suspended after an attack on their headquarters in mid-2018. The G5 force comprises contingents from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.
An attack at the same base last April killed two peacekeepers and left several others wounded.
In October 2014, nine troops of a Nigerian contingent were killed in the northeast.
Some 13,000 peacekeepers are deployed in Mali as part of a UN mission.
It was established after militias seized the north of the country in 2012. They were pushed back by French troops in 2013.
A peace agreement signed in 2015 by the Bamako government and armed groups was aimed at restoring stability to Mali.
But the accord has failed to stop violence by militants, who have also staged attacks in neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Earlier this month, both France and the United States criticized the authorities in Mali for their failure to stem the worsening violence.
On January 16, France threatened to push for more targeted sanctions to be imposed on Mali after hearing a UN official report on worsening violence in the West African country.
Washington renewed its warning that it would push for changes to the peacekeeping mission in Mali, possibly a major drawdown, if there was no progress.
In August, a panel of experts said in a report to the UN Security Council that inter-communal conflicts in the region were exacerbating existing tensions from clashes between terrorist groups and international and Malian forces.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 5 min 33 sec ago
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.