Peacekeepers killed in Mali, Canada to stand fast

KEN POLE  –  Jan 20, 2019

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed today that the 250 Canadian Armed Forces personnel and eight helicopters providing medevac services in support of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali will stand fast despite the killing of at least 10 peacekeepers from Chad at a UN camp earlier in the day. Another 25 have been reported injured in the attack.

“When it comes to missions in conflict zones like this, this is the type of thing that the UN mission requires,” Sajjan told reporters before a Jan. 19 meeting of the government’s national caucus in Ottawa. “Our people are well trained for this and giving the appropriate response.”

Asked whether he was worried about the Canadian personnel, Sajjan said that “we make sure that we do a thorough analysis on all the risks, given all the tools, and we’ve done that.”

Al-Qaeda-linked jihadis also wounded at least 25 other Chadians in an assault on their camp at Aguelhoc in northern Mali. A UN spokesman said in a statement that “a number of assailants were killed” in the attack, which he said may constitute a war crime.

The al-Qaeda-linked Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said the attack was a response to Chadian President Idriss Deby’s revival of diplomatic relations with Israel.

Fully operational by mid-August, the Canadian mission was visited by Sajjan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just before Christmas. “We witnessed personally the tremendous capability that our Canadian Armed Forces members are bringing to the mission to making sure that not only they have the right resources to protect themselves,” Sajjan said.

22 Dec 2018 – Canadian and German soldiers carry a simulated German patient to be loaded into a CH-147F Chinook helicopter as part of a MINUSMA aeromedical evacuation exercise during Operation Presence-Mali. (DND Photo: Sergeant Vincent Carbonneau)

“When it comes to any unforeseen situations like this that happen, the . . . nations on the ground have the confidence that they’re going to be well supported.  That’s exactly what our Canadian Armed Forces military are doing on the ground.”

Asked whether the mission is complicated by the fact that militant extremists are the main adversary, Sajjan reiterated that “this is not the peacekeeping of the past.” Rather, “there is a lot of complexity and we have to be engaged, involved to help reduce that. […] The ingenuity that our troops have brought in with the medical evacuation, with the tremendous support that our Chinook helicopters that have the extended range that can reach out even further gives greater confidence to the United Nations troops on the ground that they’re going to be well looked after when situations like this arise.”

– Ken Pole