U.N. peacekeepers in Mali accused of sexual abuse

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The United Nations has revealed it has received allegations of sexual abuse and other serious misconduct by its peacekeeping troops in Mali.

The incidents were said to have taken place in the northeastern town of Gao on Sept. 19 and 20, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman was quoted as saying in a statement from the U.N. released on Monday which didn't give details about the accusations.

“The Secretary-General is treating this matter with the utmost seriousness and, in line with established procedure, is in the process of notifying the troop-contributing countries,” Martin Nesirky told a briefing in New York, according to the statement.

“The troop-contributing country has primary responsibility for investigating the matter and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary and judicial measures are taken should the allegations be well-founded.”

The U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali, known as MINUSMA, took over in July from African forces fighting armed groups linked to al-Qaeda that occupied northern Mali last year.

It has around 5,500 military personnel and 800 police in the west African country and is expected to expand to around twice that number by the end of the year.

“The U.N. Mission in Mali is committed to the highest standards of conduct by all its personnel, military, police and civilian,” Nesirky said.

“The Secretary-General has a policy of zero tolerance for any form of sexual exploitation and abuse, and will do everything possible to see that a thorough process of investigation and, as appropriate, accountability takes place.”

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