Swedish peacekeepers serving with the UN’s Mali mission killed a man attempting to mount a suicide attack in the central city of Timbuktu, a UN source and local official told AFP Tuesday.
The UN’s MINUSMA mission was deployed to Mali in July 2013, with more than 11,000 international police and military personnel attempting to secure lawless swathes of the vast Sahel nation.
“A suicide attacker attempting to commit a terrorist act was neutralised,” a source within the mission told AFP, requesting anonymity as the UN has yet to formally comment on the incident.
A local government official in Timbuktu said the suspected extremist was carrying explosives when he was spotted. “He was killed, according to information we received Tuesday, by the Swedish battalion of MINUSMA in Timbuktu,” they said.
There are 209 Swedish military personnel and nine police serving with the Mali mission, according to the most recent UN figures from August.
On Tuesday Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, tweeted: “Relieved to hear everyone in our peace-keeping force in #Mali is safe, following a suicide attack. Our troops do a great job (with) UN for peace.”
Northern Mali fell into the hands of extremists linked to Al-Qaeda in early 2012 – briefly backed by Tuareg-led rebels – throwing the country into chaos.
An ongoing international military intervention that began in January 2013 has driven Islamist fighters away from the major urban centres they had briefly controlled, but large tracts of Mali are still not controlled by domestic or foreign troops.