Wednesday, 20 October, 2021
E-paper

DEADLIEST UN MISSION MINUSMA

Retrospective Experience of Banbat 7 Engaged in the Scenario (Part I)

Colonel Md Zubayer Hasnat, psc, lsc and Lieutenant Colonel Md Mohibul Akbar Mazumdar, psc, AEC

United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), approved by United Nations Security Council on 25 April 2013, is the deadliest and most challenging ongoing UN mission in the world. Since the deployment of first BANBAT on 26 April 2014, a total of fourteen Bangladeshi Peacekeepers have made supreme sacrifice to uphold the UN mandate and twelve were seriously wounded in action.

BANBAT 7 arrived in Gao on 09 July 2020. The operational environment of Mali is characterized by extreme weather with rough terrain condition along with the constant indirect fire and deadly Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks against MINUSMA and international forces by the ruthless armed terrorist groups. The problem is further compounded with the logistics problems in terms of sustenance, mobility and routines. However, BANBAT 7 has displayed firm commitment in delivering the mission mandate and upholding the glory of Bangladesh Army.

The Republic of Mali is a West African landlocked country that gained independence from France in 1960. Mali is the eighth largest country in Africa with a total area of 1,240,192 square km with a population of 20,250,833. The country’s northern portion is deep into the middle of Sahara Desert and the southern part is in the Sudan Savanna where majority of inhabitants live. Its capital is Bamako. The country’s economy depends on agriculture, herding and mining. The country is the third largest gold producer in Africa. National languages are French, Arabic, English, Fulani and Mandinka. “One people, one goal, one faith” Mali is a multi-ethnic group: 50% Mande, 16% Fula, 13% Voltaic, 10% Tuareg, 6% Songhai and 4% other. Among the population 95% follow Islam, 3% Traditional faiths and 2% Christianity.

The Malian kingdom was established during the 13th century under the command of Mansa Musa. During 1892, this country was occupied by Colonial French under French Sudan. Among 14 different tribes, Tuareg is the most influential. The resistance moves by the Tuaregs started in 1916. Finally, due to the Tuareg suppression Mali got independence from France in 1960. After that the Tuaregs were suppressed and spread in Arab and Libya. Aftermath of Arab spring pushed Tuaregs back in Mali. In January 2012, Tuareg revolted under the banner of MNLA (Mouvement national de libération de l'Azawad) and launched the war of independence to create a new nation in Sahara called Azwad. Different international and regional Terrorist Armed Groups (TAGs) joined MNLA. In the month of April 2012, the MNLA captured up to Gao Region and created a new nation Azwad. After that the MNLA started spreading in all over Mali.

The threat of MNLA to capture the capital city Bamako triggered French intervention in Mali in 2013. They launched an operation called ‘OPERATION SERVAL’ on 11 January 2013 and could re-conquer the areas with the support from African led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA). On 01 July 2013 MINUSMA took over the authority from AFISMA based on Security Council Resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013. In June 2015, the government and the ethnic Tuareg rebels signed a peace deal which is called ‘Algiers Peace Accord’. MINUSMA is basically deployed in four most conflicted regions: Mopti, Tombouctu, Kidal and Gao in Mali with Force Headquarters at Bamako. BANBAT 7 is deployed in Sector East in Gao.

Initially MINUSMA was established to support political process in Mali and carry out security related tasks. Afterwards, on 25 June 2014 adopting Security Council Resolution 2164, MINUSMA focused more on few aspects notably ensuring security and protection of civilians, assisting the re-establishment of state authority, the rebuilding of the security sector and the promotion and protection of human rights in Mali.

BANBAT 7 is highly committed in Mali to deliver MINUSMA mandate. It provides force protection to one of the most vulnerable KPIs Gao International Airport. In the Sector East this contingent is only manoeuvring contingent to conduct city domination patrol in vicinity of Gao city. The contingent is also responsible to provide escort to VIP movement. Manoeuvring company of the contingent conducts various operations from Temporary Operating Base (TOB). Domination patrols in AOR ensure protection of civilian and freedom of movement of UN agencies and local authorities. This contingent also assists civilian pillar to deliver MINUSMA mandates. Though escorting UN logistics convoy is the prime responsibility of Combat Convoy Contingent (CCC), however, since deployment in MINUSMA, this contingent provided escort to UN logistics convoy many a times as an additional responsibility.

An upsurge in violence by terrorist armed groups is observed in the northern and central Mali. In northern Mali, MINUSMA and International Forces are targeted in particular and suffered losses. BANBAT 7 has conducted numerous operations where it is supporting to implement Peace Agreement and Reconciliation in Mali. Ansongo, Meneka and Gao cercles in Gao region witness surge in terrorism. Ansongo remains the hub of terrorist activities. Killing, abduction, armed robbery, harassment, illegal trafficking is very common in this area. Contingent operational groups established TOB in an around Ansongo – Labezanga and carried out check points, domination patrols day and night, key leader engagement and CIMIC activities with the aim of showing MINUSMA presence in this area. The purpose of BANBAT activities is to ensure safety, security and confidence among the inhabitants.

Protection of Civilians (PoC) is one of the important mandates of MINUSMA. Killing of opponents and political workers, abduction and harassment are very common activities of Terrorist Armed Groups (TAGs). Therefore, BANBAT 7 conducted an integrated operation to provide support and security to civilian pillar activities in Gao commune to enable UN projects. This contingent provided transport, escort and protection to monitor civilian pillar activities at various places in Gao region. Civilian pillars and the MINUSMA leadership always appreciate such type of effort, support and cooperation.

Terrorist Armed Groups especially ISGS are likely to expand its area of influence, especially in Ansongo and Menaka cercles. Basically, terrorists target Malian Defence and Security Forces, MINUSMA and International Forces in these areas. Therefore, supply of logistics in different camps in these areas especially in Menaka is a great challenge. Terrorists carry out direct attack, IED attack and Indirect Fire frequently on the Main Supply Route (MSR). Number of times BANBAT 7 has carried out logistics convoy escorting operation in this area. On 06 November 2020 contingent ‘Search and Detect’ team detected an IED at Ihagana. Again, another IED was detected on 23 May 2021 in a place which is 50 km west of Menaka. More so, BANBAT 7 operation group repulsed an attempted attack on 22 and 26 May 2021 at Infizane on Ansongo – Menaka axis during convoy and escort operation of logics to Menaka MINUSMA camp.

 

Among the writers, the former commands the contingent BANBAT 7

and the latter serves as its Gender, Child Protection and Public Relation Officer.