Two Red Cross workers killed in Mali ambush

Concerns about security in Mali have deepened since former coloniser France recently announced the withdrawal of its troops.

Health workers stand at a medical facility in Kayes, Mali
In this photo taken in October 2014, health workers stand at a medical facility in Kayes, Mali [File: Baba Ahmed/AP Photo]

A vehicle transporting a Red Cross team came under a hail of gunfire in western Mali, killing a worker and the car’s driver, the Malian and Dutch Red Cross organisations have said.

Witnesses said the attackers were riding motorcycles when they shot at the vehicle at about 6pm on Wednesday near Kayes, the aid organisation said.

The vehicle was clearly marked with the group’s emblem, they added. Two other employees survived the ambush.

“The Malian Red Cross condemns with the utmost firmness this incident, which undermines the humanitarian mission aimed at vulnerable populations,” the aid group said in a statement announcing the deaths.

“Disbelief and sadness,” the Dutch Red Cross said on Twitter. “Two Red Cross aid workers have been killed in an armed attack in Mali. One of them was an employee of the Dutch Red Cross. Our flag is at half-mast. Aid workers should never be the target.”

A spokeswoman said the Dutch Red Cross worker was not a Dutch citizen.

“This is terrible news and it touches us deeply. First of all, our thoughts go out to the family members and everyone who knew the affected aid workers,” said Marieke van Schaik, director of the Dutch Red Cross.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though armed groups are known to operate in the vicinity.

For more than a decade, deadly armed groups have been active in Mali and much of the country has long been considered off-limits to Westerners for security reasons. While the Kayes region has been less risky than Mali’s north, there have been growing reports of extremism spreading in the area linked to a group known as Katiba Macina.

Concerns about security in Mali have only deepened since February when former coloniser France announced the imminent withdrawal of its troops fighting the armed groups in the country.

The country’s military is still being aided by a large UN peacekeeping mission that comes under frequent attack from armed groups.

Source: AP