Canadian infantry and medical personnel disembark a Chinook helicopter as they take part in a medical evacuation demonstration on the United Nations base in Gao, Mali, Saturday, December 22, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadians airlift wounded peacekeepers after another deadly attack in Mali

For the second time this week, Canadian peacekeepers in Mali had to scramble their helicopters to airlift injured UN peacekeepers following another deadly attack against the blue helmets in the country.

Two Sri Lankan peacekeepers were killed Friday after their convoy struck an explosive device in the central Mopti region, according to a statement by the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The statement said the blast occurred at 6 am local time in the Douentza area. Several other people were wounded, including one critically, MINUSMA said.

Following a request for assistance, Canadian peacekeepers immediately launched aeromedical assets to provide advanced care to those injured in the attack in Douentza, about 400 kilometres southwest of the Canadian base in Gao, in northern Mail, said in an email Capt. Christopher Daniel, spokesperson for Canadian Joint Operation Command.

7th medevac since Canadians deployed in Mali

A member of the Canadian Force Protection team participates in a combat casualty exercise in Mali on December 17, 2018. (Cpl. Ken Beliwicz/CAF)

Canadians dispatched one CH-147F Chinook, equipped as a top-notch flying ambulance with highly trained medical crew on board, as well as two CH-146 Griffons to provide overhead security for the military medics and their security team on the ground.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the blue helmets who tragically lost their lives this morning in Mali,” Daniel said.

“Today’s events mark the seventh medevac Canadian peacekeepers have conducted since arriving in Mali last summer, highlighting the benefit we add as members of MINUSMA.”

No Canadian Armed Force members were injured in the incident, he said.

Friday’s blast comes after a “complex” attack in Aguelhok, in the northern Kidal region on Sunday killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers and wounded 25 others.

Both attacks have been claimed by Al-Qaeda’s Malian branch, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin’ (JNIM).

Deadly peacekeeping mission

The UN mission in Mali is one of the most dangerous peacekeeping operations in the world (Moustapha Diallo/Reuters]

Since being established in April 2013, MINUSMA has become one of the deadliest UN peacekeeping missions. According to UN figures, as of Dec. 31, 2018, 177 UN peacekeepers had died in Mali. The two latest attacks bring the total to 189 deaths.

Canada has deployed about 250 soldiers and eight helicopters to provide MINUSMA with a 24/7 aeromedical evacuation capability, as well as tactical airlift.

The Canadian task force includes three medium lift CH-147F Chinook helicopters and five CH-146 Griffon helicopters. The Griffons, armed with side-mounted machine guns, provide security to the Chinooks that are equipped to care for up to two critically injured patients as well as several walking wounded.

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