Four Cambodians were injured, one seriously, in a suicide attack in Mali’s Gao city late on Monday, the Ministry of Defence said. The blast killed three people. Malian civilians working for the UN died in the attack in the violence-plagued north of the African Sahel region nation.
The attack was claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which is the area’s main jihadist group with links to al-Qaeda.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat told The Post on Wednesday that the wounded Cambodians were Phen Saran, Hul Sokheng, Riem Dy and Sam Ratha.
They had been working as translators for the UN Mine Action Service (Unmas) since November 2014.
They were not part of the Cambodian peacekeeping force of the UN mission in Mali. They had formerly worked for demining organisations the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) and the Halo Trust.
“Among the four victims, Phen Saran was badly injured. His ribs were fractured and he suffered severe head injuries. He was sent to a Chinese hospital in Mali, while the other three men suffered minor injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital,” Socheat said.
A ministry statement said a vehicle heading towards the UN office in Gao exploded in a residential area.
Two Malian UN employees were killed immediately, while 14 others, including the Cambodians, were injured and taken to a hospital.
The driver of the 4x4 vehicle was killed in the blast.
The GSIM said the attack had targeted “invading crusader forces” in central Gao in an area “where there are British, German and Canadian troops”, according to AFP.
The director-general of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Sem Sovanny, told The Post on Wednesday that no Cambodian peacekeeping troops in the area were hurt in the attack.
Cambodia has a force of 309 peacekeepers in Mali, divided into two groups of 165 engineers and 144 deminers.
On March 22, Cambodian peacekeeping forces there were unhurt in a guerrilla attack that injured five French soldiers.
“The attack last night in Gao was despicable. Once again, it is civilians who have paid for this violence with their lives,” said French Defence Minister Florence Parly, who was on a visit to Gao with her German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the situation in Mali, AFP reported.
Islamist extremists took control of the north of Mali in early 2012, which prompted a military intervention from France.