Tributes for Chinese peacekeeper Shen Liangliang, killed by jihadists in attack on UN Mali mission
The chief of the UN mission in Mali promised extra support for personnel at a tribute ceremony Tuesday for the first Chinese peacekeeper killed among dozens who have died trying to stabilise the Sahel nation.
At least 65 peacekeepers have been killed since the mission’s launch three years ago, the latest by jihadists targeting a UN camp with rockets and mortars in the northern city of Gao on May 31.
It is the deadliest active deployment for UN peacekeepers.
Mahamat Saleh Annadif paid his final respects to First Sergeant Shen Liangliang in Bamako, and underlined the “courage and commitment” of the nearly 400 Chinese peacekeepers serving in Mali.
China began sending troops to support the Mali mission, known as MINUSMA in 2013, carrying out security, engineering and medical work, according to Xinhua.
Annadif said in a statement released by the mission he would “reinforce security measures and give our brave soldiers for peace the necessary equipment to allow them to better take on the challenges they face.”
Also present were China’s ambassador to Mali Lu Huiying, Danish commander of the Major-General Michael Lollesgaard, and Chinese general Su Guanghui.
Two other Chinese soldiers were flown to Dakar for medical treatment, Xinhua said, as their wounds were considered severe.
Al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate AQIM and Islamist group Ansar Dine have both claimed attacks against MINUSMA, while protests have erupted against the force for what are viewed as unwarranted arrests.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday the MINUSMA mission needed to add 2,500 troops to the 12,000-strong force along with more air assets and quick-reaction forces.
MINUSMA is already making use of drones and other technology to protect its bases.
Northern Mali has been the scene of repeated attacks since it fell under the control of three radical Islamist groups in 2012.
The rebels were largely ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013, but they have continued to mount attacks on security forces from desert hideouts.
Mali’s government has since been unable to maintain security with domestic forces alone.