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UN orders probe of deadly protest at UN base in north Mali

January 30, 2015

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday ordered an investigation into violence during a demonstration this week outside a U.N. peacekeeping base in northern Mali that killed at least three protesters and injured several others.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that Ban “deplores the incidents” during Tuesday’s protest in Gao and ordered the inquiry to determine the facts. He said the U.N. will cooperate with all parties in the probe.

Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the U.N. mission in Mali, said protesters marched on the peacekeepers’ base and began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails. When they wounded two U.N. police officers, U.N. forces responded to disperse the crowd, Salgado said.

David Gressly, the U.N. deputy special representative in Mali, said the peacekeepers fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse the protest involving about 2,000 people, but two witnesses told AP they saw U.N. troops fire live rounds into the crowd.

Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention in 2013 scattered the extremists, but some remain active and there have been continued bursts of violence.

U.N. troops are now trying to stabilize the north and have been targeted by extremists and separatists. About two dozen peacekeepers have been killed, making Mali the deadliest mission for peacekeepers.

Peace talks have begun between the Malian government and Tuaregs, who have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government. Al-Qaida is not participating in those discussions.

Gressly said the protest was sparked by a leaked U.N. working document which was aimed at promoting a peaceful climate for the next round of peace talks in Algiers on Feb. 8.

He said it had only been discussed with armed groups called the Platform that are pro-government and was leaked before it was discussed with separatist armed groups that are participating in the peace talks, and was put out as an official document which it is not.

“This document has been used as political propaganda, but equally to destabilize the peace process, and we deplore this,” Gressly told reporters Tuesday evening.

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