UN chief Antonio Guterres in Mali to back peacekeeping mission

<p>United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Mali. (Courtesy: Twitter | @antonioguterres)<br></p>United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Mali. (Courtesy: Twitter | @antonioguterres)

BAMAKO: United NationsSecretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Mali on Tuesday to show support for UNpeacekeepers facing an Islamist insurgency that has killed scores of their colleagues.

Guterres, received at the airport by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, went to the UN’s MINUSMA base for ceremonies marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

Guterres paid tribute to “the brave men and women serving in our mission in Mali, our operation with the highest casualties last year. At their own personal risk, they save lives serving the cause of peace.”

Twenty-one troops and seven civilians with MINUSMA died last year, the UN said last week. It was the highest number of fatalities of any UN peacekeeping mission for the fourth year running.

MINUSMA has 12,500 military and police personnel. It has lost more than 160 people since it deployed in 2013 — a figure that accounts for more than half of UN peacekeeping fatalities over this period.

During his two-day “solidarity visit” to the capital Bamako and the provinces, Guterres w

He is being accompanied by the UN’s top officials for peacekeeping and logistical support, and by the head of Unicef, Henrietta Fore.

Northern Mali fell into the grip of al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in 2012.

Most of them were ousted or dispersed by a French military operation, which was launched in January 2013 and continues to this day.

MINUSMA deployed to help stabilise the area, but swathes of the territory remain lawless, and attacks have spilled over to the centre and south of the country and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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