UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- The UN peacekeeping chief has headed to Mali to meet with authorities on the orderly withdrawal process of the mission known as MINUSMA, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.
Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix is to visit the capital of Bamako on Thursday and Friday to meet with the Malian authorities and stakeholders to discuss progress on the plan for the gradual withdrawal by Dec. 31, said Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Haq said Lacroix will also meet with the UN Country Team and the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel over the withdrawal requested by Mali and authorized on June 30 by the Security Council. Lacroix will see UN personnel and extend his appreciation for their dedication and sacrifice over the years in the service and support of the people of Mali.
"Our peacekeeping colleagues in Mali report that one of their convoys travelling from Menaka to Gao as part of the MINUSMA withdrawal process came under fire from unidentified armed elements yesterday (Tuesday) evening," Haq said. "Fortunately, no injuries to peacekeepers were reported. The convoy was carrying personnel from the Niger military contingent and Togolese Formed Police Unit, as well as equipment."
He said the MINUSMA condemned the attack and reminded that any attack against peacekeepers could constitute war crimes under international law.
The spokesman said a convoy carrying peacekeepers and equipment from its Ber camp east of Timbuktu, as part of the withdrawal process, reached Timbuktu city safely on Tuesday.
The mission was formed in 2013 in answer to jihadist attacks from the north. Bamako requested MINUSMA's departure, claiming ill will between Malians and the mission was contributing to unrest. It was one of the deadliest peacekeeping missions, with the United Nations tallying by June 30 the slaying of 309 MINUSMA peacekeepers over its nearly 10-year history.