A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden vehicle penetrated a camp in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing at least 60 people and wounding 115 soldiers and former fighters who are trying to stabilize the region. The attack marked a significant setback for peace efforts.
On Wednesday, at around 9 am local time, a car packed with explosives entered a compound where a meeting of government and pro-government forces was taking place. Minutes later, the five occupants detonated the bomb.
Suspicion quickly fell on the Islamic extremist groups operating in the area which oppose the 2015 peace agreement that brought the parties together. A Mauritanian news agency that frequently receives communications from extremist groups, Alakhbar, said a group linked to al-Qaida’s North Africa branch, al-Mourabitoun, had claimed responsibility.
The morning blast hit the Joint Operational Mechanism base in the city of Gao, home to Malian soldiers and hundreds of former fighters who signed the peace agreement with the government. Witnesses said the car breached the camp as hundreds of fighters were gathering for a meeting.
The office of Mali’s president late Wednesday put the provisional death toll at 60, with 115 wounded.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has declared three days of national mourning in the aftermath of the attack, the worst to hit the Saharan country in years.
The former fighters who signed the 2015 peace deal include ethnic Tuareg secular rebels who once fought the Malian military. Now they are supposed to be forming joint patrols in the area, though the program has yet to begin.
“If the security situation continues to deteriorate, then soon there won’t be any peace to keep in Mali,” U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday. He said attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and that rivalry among armed groups continues to slow implementation of the peace deal.
At the United Nations, Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the “criminal, cowardly, barbaric attack” will not deter the government from moving forward to promote peace.
Source: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh