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PM Hun Sen condemns attack on Cambodian peacekeepers in Mali

UN Peacekeepers leave Phnom Penh International Airport in 2015.
UN Peacekeepers leave Phnom Penh International Airport in 2015. Vireak Mai

PM Hun Sen condemns attack on Cambodian peacekeepers in Mali

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday condemned a “cruel attack” on a United Nations peacekeeping camp in Mali that destroyed accommodation sites in the Cambodian camp.

“I would like to appeal to military forces to stay strong in the name of Cambodian citizens,” Hun Sen wrote on Facebook. “I would like to absolutely condemn to the rebel group in Mali who started the attack on Cambodian soldiers.”

Three mortars struck the site on Thursday, burning two houses, but no Cambodians were injured in the blasts, according to Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat on Thursday.

The attack was carried out by as-yet unknown assailants at about 6:50am in the northern city of Kidal, or 1:50pm local time on Thursday.

Kosal Malinda, spokeswoman for Cambodia’s National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, on Friday said there were reports that five to seven people received minor injuries from the French Bakhane Operation in the area, but that no peacekeepers were wounded.

“Everyone is safe,” she said, adding that the Cambodian contingent was not singled out and that a number of explosives were fired at the UN base.

Mali’s Prime Minister, Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, was due to visit Kidal, the first visit by a senior government official to the unstable region in just under four years.

The attack was also condemned by the UN mission in Mali’s special representative M. Annadif, who expressed indignation at “this cowardly attempt perpetuated by enemies of peace to hinder the positive developments symbolised by the visit of the Prime Minister to Kidal, a strong sign for Malian peace and reconciliation and an important step in the return of the state to the whole of Mali”.

Hun Sen also pledged to contribute more forces to UN peacekeeping missions abroad, as he did last year when four Cambodian peacekeepers were killed in an attack by the Christian terrorist Anti-Balaka group in the Central African Republic.

In November last year, a Cambodian peacekeeper was injured in one of two attacks that killed four blue helmets and a member of the Mali armed forces. In 2014, two Cambodian peacekeepers died after contracting food poisoning, and in 2015 a Cambodian soldier died after contracting malaria in the West African nation.

Additional reporting by Chhay Channyda and Quinn Libson

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