Several people have died in acts of violence in northern Mali. At least 20 civilians were killed near the city of Gao over the weekend, according to several state officials interviewed by the AFP news agency. A UN peacekeeper died in a mine explosion in Kidal.

“Criminal terrorists” “murdered at least 20 civilians” in several villages in the municipality of Anchavaj on Saturday, a police representative said. Another official spoke of 24 dead.

On Sunday morning, according to the UN Mission in Mali (Minusma), a peacekeeper from Guinea was killed in a mine explosion during a minesweeping operation in the town of Kidal. According to a statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack “strongly” and recalled that attacks on UN peacekeepers can be classified as war crimes.

With 13,000 soldiers, Minusma is currently the largest UN peacekeeping mission – and the one with the highest losses. According to the mission, more than 170 soldiers have been killed in attacks since it began in 2013. The objectives of the mission are to secure a peace agreement in Mali, protect the civilian population and enable humanitarian aid.

So far, 1,100 German soldiers have also taken part in Minusma. In the future, their number is to rise to up to 1,400, and the Bundestag passed a correspondingly modified mandate in mid-May. Participation in Minusma is considered to be the Bundeswehr’s most dangerous foreign mission at the moment.

Mali has been plagued by jihadist violence for years. An Islamist uprising began in the country in 2012 and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. Several thousand soldiers and civilians have already been killed in the conflict and two million people have been displaced from their homes.