Chinese Nationals Kidnapped in Mali; After Pakistan, Beijing Faces Rough Test in West Africa

As West Africa is facing an Islamist insurgency, the latest development suggests that three Chinese nationals and two Mauritanians were kidnapped in southwest Mali on Saturday. The country's armed forces informed about this development amid the Sahel crisis entering its tenth year.

According to AFP News Agency, armed men attacked a construction site 55 kilometres (34 miles) from the town of Kwala, making off with five pick-up trucks and the hostages, Mali's army said on social media.

The assailants also destroyed equipment including a crane and dump trucks belonging to Chinese construction firm Covec, and Mauritanian road-building company ATTM, according to the army.

Terrorist (Representational Picture) Pixabay

A Malian army official, who requested anonymity, said the kidnap victims were working on road construction in the region.

"The release of all the hostages is our priority," he said, reported AFP.

Mauritania's Al-Akhbar news agency reported that gunmen arrived on motorbikes to attack the construction site, burning equipment as well as fuel tanks before withdrawing with captives.

Abductions Have Been Frequent, both of Malians and of Foreigners

Mali has been fighting terror groups since 2013. Four main terror outfits operate in the region — the ISGS, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), the Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin, the local al-Qaeda branch in Mali, and Boko Haram.

The multinational effort to stave off an encroaching takeover by extremists in the part of Africa known as the Sahel is facing severe challenges, reported BBC. According to some media reports, Sahel region, a 5,900-km-long semi-arid territory has seen terrorist groups expanding their networks and stepping up attacks on civilians and soldiers. It is also a major transit route for illegal drugs, weapons and jihadists.

UN Asks Security Council to Authorize Additional Peacekeeping Troops for Mali

Amid the rising violence, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to authorize additional peacekeeping troops for Mali. Guterres made the request in a report dated July 15, according to Reuters news agency.

The proposed increase of 2,069 soldiers and police officers would take the authorized size of the mission, known as MINUSMA, to 17,278 uniformed personnel, the largest since it was established in 2013.

Guterres said the plan could only work in concert with stepped-up efforts by Malian authorities to bolster security and enhance governance.

Chinese Workers Face Increasing Challenges with the Controversial Pakistan Bus Blast

Chinese People
Chinese People (Representational Image) Pixabay

A blast on a bus in Pakistan had killed 13 people, including 9 Chinese nationals. Reportedly, the bus was carrying 30 Chinese engineers to the Dasu dam in Upper Kohistan. The Dasu hydropower project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - a $65bn (£47bn) investment plan.

Beijing called the incident a bomb attack but Islamabad termed it as a vehicle failure. Later, Pakistan officials have admitted that the blast could be a terrorist attack. Pakistan's information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Thursday that traces of explosives had been found in the vehicle and terrorism couldn't be ruled out in the incident.

Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times called the blast an "act of terrorism" and the most serious attack on Chinese nationals in recent years. The south-eastern province of Balochistan is riddled with insurgency. The separatist militants have carried out insurgent activities previously in the areas where China is developing mines and a port.

The kidnapping of Chinese workers in Mali have increased the challenges of Beijing.