Four dead in Mali attacks, Red Cross suspends Timbuktu ops

Malian army soldiers patrol in the village of Bintagoungou near Goundam in central Mali. (AFP)
Updated 06 August 2019

Four dead in Mali attacks, Red Cross suspends Timbuktu ops

  • A gendarme was killed in an ambush in the Segou region, east of the capital Bamako on Tuesday, while at the scene of a robbery
  • A day earlier, two army trucks were targeted by an explosive device in the Koro area near the Burkina Faso border, in which a soldier and two civilians were killed

BAMAKO: Twin attacks in Mali have killed four people, including two Malian soldiers, security sources said Tuesday, as the International Committee of the Red Cross suspended activities in Timbuktu due to “growing insecurity.”
A gendarme was killed in an ambush in the Segou region, east of the capital Bamako on Tuesday, while at the scene of a robbery, a security source said.
A day earlier, two army trucks were targeted by an explosive device in the Koro area near the Burkina Faso border, in which a soldier and two civilians were killed, a senior army officer told AFP.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks.
They were made public as the ICRC temporarily suspended its work in the northern city of Timbuktu following a carjacking at gunpoint close to the Geneva-based organization’s office.
“We ask for measures to improve security in town and in the region,” said the head of ICRC’s Mali delegation Jean-Nicolas Marti in a tweet.
In a statement, the ICRC said armed men stole one of its vehicles on Monday in the middle of the city and that several other thefts had happened in the region this year.
“This latest incident is symptomatic of the level of insecurity prevailing in the city and region, which has reached an unacceptable threshold for the population,” the ICRC said.
Despite military help from France and the United Nations, Mali’s government has struggled to quell the violence that began in the north of the country in 2012, sparked by radical Islamist and Tuareg militias.
Ethnic violence in central Mali surged after a predominantly Fulani extremist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.
They recruit mainly from among the Fulani — primarily cattle breeders and traders — and they have clashed with the Dogon and Bambara — farmers who have formed their own self-defense militias.
Whole areas of the country remain beyond the control of Malian, French and UN forces.


South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

Updated 22 January 2020

South Korea to deploy anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz

  • South Korea will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct

SEOUL: South Korea’s military said on Tuesday it plans to expand the deployment of an anti-piracy unit now operating off the coast of Africa to the area around the Strait of Hormuz, after the United States pressed for help in guarding oil tankers.
Attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran last year prompted US officials to call for allies to join a planned maritime security mission.
While South Korea, a key US ally, will deploy its forces to the area, including the Gulf, it will not officially be joining a coalition of forces known as the International Maritime Security Construct, the defense ministry said.
“The South Korean government decided to temporarily expand the deployment of the Cheonghae military unit,” a ministry official told reporters, adding that the step would ensure the safety of citizens and free navigation of South Korean vessels.
The decision to divert the navy unit already operating southwest of Arabia is a political compromise that will not require fresh authorization by parliament ahead of an election in April.
The Cheonghae unit will continue with its mission while it cooperates with the coalition, the ministry said, adding that the United States had been briefed on the decision, which was also explained to the Iranians separately.
The United States welcomes and appreciates South Korea’s decision to expand the mission of its Cheonghae anti-piracy unit to the Strait of Hormuz, William Coleman, spokesman for the US Embassy in Seoul, told Reuters on Wednesday.
“This decision is a demonstration of the strength of the US-ROK alliance and our commitment to cooperate on global security concerns.”
The Iranian embassy in Seoul had no comment on the matter.
The Strait of Hormuz is a busy passageway into the Gulf, with vessels sailing through it approximately 900 times a year for South Korea, which gets more than 70% of its oil from the Middle East, the defense ministry says.
Sending troops to the area has been a politically sensitive issue in South Korea ahead of the election.
A survey by pollster Realmeter last week showed 48.4% of South Koreans were opposed to dispatching soldiers to the Strait, while 40.3% supported the idea.
Tuesday’s move was broadly supported by lawmakers although some said it could risk Iran ties and the safety of South Koreans in the region. A number of progressive activist groups issued a statement criticizing the decision and said they will stage a protest in front of the president’s office on Wednesday.
The Cheonghae unit has been stationed in the Gulf of Aden since 2009, working to tackle piracy in partnership with African countries as well as the United States and the European Union.
The 302-strong unit operates a 4,500-ton destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter and three speed boats, South Korea’s 2018 defense white paper showed.
Among its operations were the rescue of a South Korean ship and its crew in 2011, shooting eight suspected pirates and capturing five others in the incident.
The South Korean troops have also evacuated South Korean citizens from Libya and Yemen, and as of November 2018 had escorted around 18,750 South Korean and international vessels.
South Korea, the world’s fifth-largest crude oil importer and one of Iran’s major oil customers, stopped importing Iranian crude from May after waivers of US sanctions ended at the start of that month.