- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United Nations Security Council voted Wednesday to increase the U.N.’s peacekeeping force in Mali by more than 2,500 troops, a move aimed at countering increasing attacks by Islamic extremists on civilians and peacekeepers and more aggressively enabling a peace agreement between the government and rebels.

The resolution, which the 15-member Security Council passed unanimously, raises force levels to 13,290 military troops and 1,920 police personnel, up from about 11,240 military personnel and 1,440 police. It also authorizes an increase in mine-protected vehicles such as armored personnel carriers to counter the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices.

A peace agreement was signed last year between the government and rebels, but Islamic extremists have been attacking international peacekeepers and Malian soldiers working to stabilize the north over the three years since a French-led military campaign ousted the jihadists from power.

French Ambassador Francois Delattre, the current Security Council president whose country drafted the resolution, said the new one-year mandate gives U.N. troops more leeway to respond aggressively to attacks and clarifies the force’s mission of supporting the implementation of the peace agreement.

“This is a more robust mandate” that gives peacekeepers the right to use “all necessary means, including force, to deter and counter (terrorist) attacks,” he said.

Earlier this month, U.N. Special Representative for Mali Mahamat Saleh Annadif had requested the increase in troop levels, saying the security situation in the country had significantly worsened. He said 19 peacekeepers were killed in extremist attacks between February and May of this year, including 12 who died in May alone, making it the U.N.’s most dangerous ongoing operation.

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