The United Nations mission in Mali said that Egypt will withdraw its troops from the West African country by mid-August citing deadly attacks against its peacekeepers. Seven Egyptian peacekeepers have been killed in Mali so far this year, according to officials.
Olivier Salgado, the spokesman of the UN mission in Mali, confirmed on Friday that Egypt will suspend its activities in Mali.
“We confirm that Egypt, through its Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, expressed its concern at the beginning of the week at the increase in attacks against its peacekeepers who escort the convoys supplying our bases in the centre and northern Mali,” Salgado said in a statement.
“These attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year,” he said.
“We have been informed that as a result, the Egyptian contingent will temporarily suspend its activities within MINUSMA as of August 15.”
Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the UN mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.
The decision is another blow to the UN mission after Mali’s military rulers temporarily suspended troop rotations by contributing nations to the peacekeeping mission on Thursday
The suspension of its role in MINUSMA will remain in place until Egypt’s concerns over the safety and security of its peacekeepers are addressed, a diplomat with knowledge of the decision, told the Reuters news agency.
Another diplomatic source said that Egypt has been concerned for some time about peacekeeper security, but Mali’s decision on Thursday to halt troop rotation was likely the trigger to suspend activities.
The diplomat added that the suspension of activities, particularly the combat convoy battalion, is expected to cause delays in fuel convoy deliveries and could have serious ramifications.
Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq told journalists in New York that the UN was working closely with Egypt to address the issues it has raised.
“We respect and deeply appreciate the service and significant sacrifice by Egypt and other countries contributing uniformed personnel to our missions which operate in extremely difficult and, often dangerous, conditions,” Haq said.
The UN force has said that more than 250 of its peacekeepers and personnel have died since 2013, making Mali the deadliest of the UN’s peacekeeping missions worldwide.
Mali has struggled to contain a rebellion since 2012 when rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies.
Insecurity has worsened with attacks in the northern and central regions on civilians and UN peacekeepers.