German defense minister arrives in Mali, departs same day
German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen
West Africa (Globe Afrique)- German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen arrived in northern Mali on Sunday, four days after two German soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash there.
The German defense chief arrived in the early morning hours in Camp Castor, the military base of the German peacekeeping troops in the volatile town of Gao.
Von der Leyen had planned to spend the whole of Sunday with German soldiers and attend a memorial service.
Meanwhile, the remains of the two Bundeswehr soldiers arrived Saturday night in Germany.
The two soldiers’ Tiger attack helicopter crashed Wednesday near the town of Tabankort in the Gao region of northern Mali.
Sources say the pilots were conducting reconnaissance for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in the aftermath of violent clashes between armed groups Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad and the Plateforme.
In almost two years, the deaths of the two pilots were the first losses for Bundeswehr troops in the country in almost two years.
According to the UN, the cause of the crash remains unknown, but preliminary results point to a technical failure.
Fellow soldiers and family members of the two pilots received the remains at an air force base near the western city of Cologne. The reception ceremony was also attended by Von der Leyen.
There are 875 German soldiers stationed in Gao as part of the UN’s Mali peacekeeping operations.