DAKAR (Reuters) - Egypt has told the United Nations it will temporarily suspend the activities of its contingent in a Mali peacekeeping mission, citing increased attacks on its peacekeepers who escort convoys supplying U.N. bases, a U.N. spokesperson said on Friday.
The attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year.
"We have been informed that as a result, the Egyptian contingent will temporarily suspend its activities within MINUSMA as of August 15," the spokesperson said.
The decision is another blow to the mission after Mali's military junta temporarily suspended troop rotations by contributing nations to the peacekeeping mission on Thursday.
Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.
The suspension will remain in place until Egypt's concerns over the safety and security of its peacekeepers are addressed, a diplomat with knowledge of the decision, said.
Another diplomatic source told Reuters that Egypt has been concerned for some time over troop security but Mali's decision on Thursday to halt troop rotation, was likely the trigger.
The diplomat added that the suspension of activities, particularly the combat convoy battalion, is expected to cause delays in fuel convoys and have serious ramifications and will seriously stretch the (United Nations) mission.
Deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told journalists in New York that the U.N. was working closely with Egypt to address the issues it has raised.
"We respect and deeply appreciate the service and significant sacrifice by Egypt and other countries contributing uniformed personnel to our missions which operate in extremely difficult and, often dangerous, conditions," Haq said.
(Reporting by David Lewis and Bate Felix; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Susan Fenton)