Cairo « expressed earlier this week » during a UN meeting in New York, « its concern about the increasing number of attacks against its peacekeepers. « We have been informed that as a result, the Egyptian contingent will temporarily suspend its activities within the Minusma, » the Mission wrote in a statement sent to AFP, without specifying the duration of the suspension.
Seven Egyptian peacekeepers have been killed in Mali since the beginning of the year.
« Egypt has a contingent of 1,035 troops deployed in Mali out of a total of 12,261 peacekeepers in Mali, » said a UN official in Bamako. « It represents one of the largest contingents in the mission, » he said.
Minusma –created in 2013 to support the Malian political process– is the UN peacekeeping mission with the highest casualty rate.
A total of 177 of its peacekeepers have died in hostile acts, including 10 since January.
The latest deadly attack on the Egyptian contingent occurred on July 5 near Gao, the main city in northern Mali, where two Egyptian peacekeepers were killed and five others seriously injured.
The announced departure of the French military operation Barkhane from Mali, which is due to end in the next few weeks, as well as the tumultuous political situation in the Sahelian country, have raised fears in recent months that contingents will leave the mission.
In particular, Germany considered withdrawing its troops from the UNMIS in the spring. Berlin finally announced in May that it was increasing its UN contingent by 300 soldiers to compensate for the French departure.
Other Western countries began reviewing their participation in the mission in 2022.
« Some contingents were present in Mali because Barkhane was there, » Ornella Moderan, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), told AFP in February. « With the departure of the French soldiers, will the Germans, the British or the Swedes stay? » she wondered at the time.
The U.N. Security Council on June 29 extended the Minusma mission for another year, despite Mali’s « firm opposition » to the freedom of movement of peacekeepers for human rights investigations.
« These obstacles to the UN Mission in Mali, whose renewal has been contested, which come at a critical time when French support will soon no longer be possible, will inevitably make several contributing countries question their commitment, » a Western diplomat whose country participates in the mission told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Mali, a poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, has been the scene of two military coups in August 2020 and May 2021. The political crisis is coupled with a serious security crisis that has been ongoing since 2012 and the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in the north.
The country is ruled by a junta that has turned away from France and its partners, and turned to Russia in an attempt to stem the spread of jihadists to the center and to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The violence has left thousands of civilians and soldiers dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.