OTTAWA — peacekeepers, canadians have lived their busiest day, Sunday, in Mali, after that extremists with ties to Al-Qaeda had attacked a united Nations base, killing ten people dead and dozens injured.
Five canadian helicopters have been deployed from another base after the attack, according to the spokesperson of the canadian armed Forces, captain Christopher Daniel. Two notable Chinooks have served hospitals in the air and three smaller Vultures have also been used.
The canadian helicopters have evacuated 15 united Nations troops who have been wounded in the attack, added Mr. Daniel in an email. They have also delivered food, water and ammunition.
The soldiers have worked “professionally” on this day “demanding and extremely complex,” he continued.
This intervention is by far the most important carried out by canadian troops since they arrived last summer in the north of Mali, where their main task is to perform evacuations for the UN soldiers who are ill or injured.
The number of helicopters involved has underlined the severity of the attack, while in normal times, only a Chinook should be available 24 hours on 24. Canada has three Chinooks and five Griffons at the base of Gao.
Over the past five months, soldiers of peace have accomplished a total of five evacuations involving six patients. The rest of the time, they have participated in exercises and transported supplies in different regions of the country.
One of the worst attacks
The attack on Sunday was the most deadly since several months, among all the bases of the UN in the world. The victims were all from Chad. The balance sheet of the dead among the blue Helmets established in Mali since 2013 now stands at 187; most of the victims were from the african continent.
At least 25 other soldiers of peace have been injured in the attack at the base of aguel’hoc, which has been claimed by an organization, an islamist extremist, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, the Group that supports islam and muslims. The base is located approximately 400 kilometres from where are stationed the canadian helicopters.
According to the UN, the attackers arrived in a vehicle at the camp, after which the soldiers of the peace had “responded robustly, killing a number of assailants”. An investigation is underway for those responsible to be held accountable, said the UN.
The attack was condemned by Canada, the united Nations and other countries. It comes at a time when many are concerned about an influx of jihadists islamists in Mali, a country shaken by violence and instability since 2012.
It alleges that the jihadists have fueled the rivalries and divisions among the different ethnic communities in the country, where tensions are bright because of the drought, poverty and corruption.
Some fear that islamist extremists and criminal organizations spread there and everywhere in the Sahel region, if the situation is not resolved in Mali.
The attack in aguel’hoc, a city located in the extreme north of the country and near the algerian border, was still unusual, as violence in Mali took place more in the centre and south of the country in the last year.
The one-year mission of Canada must come to an end in July. At this time, the Canadians will prepare their baggage and begin to leave the country. The united Nations would like Canada to remain until the Romanian troops arrive in the fall, but the government has rejected the request.