Saturday 24 March 2018

Tributes paid to five Togo soldiers killed in Mali

Tributes paid to five Togo soldiers killed in Mali
(AFP 07/09/16)

Five United Nations peacekeepers who were killed in an ambush in central Mali were on Friday given full military honours at a ceremony in Togo.

The commemoration took place near Togo's presidential palace and was attended by President Faure Gnassingbé, senior members of the country’s armed forces and a delegation from the Malian army.

The Togolese soldiers were killed on May 29 some 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Sevare in the Mopti region. There was no claim of responsibility but the UN at the time blamed a "terrorist" attack.

"You were at the end of your engagement and I pay tribute here to your courage and sacrifice," the head of state said.

More than 1,000 Togolese soldiers are deployed in Mali as part of the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, which is the most dangerous active deployment of UN troops.

Late last month, the UN Security Council decided to send 2,500 extra soldiers to Mali to take levels up to a maximum 15,200 troops and police, following a spate of attacks.

Northern Mali has seen repeated violence since it fell under the control of Tuareg-led rebels who allied with jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012.

The Islamists were largely ousted by an ongoing French-led military operation launched in January 2013 but they have since launched sporadic attacks on security forces from desert hideouts.

But rival armed factions and smuggling networks mean the region has struggled for stability since Mali gained independence from former colonial power France in 1960.

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