United Nations asks Canada to send helicopters to Mali sooner

Mahamat Saleh Annadif , UN envoy to Mali

NEW YORK–– A UN envoy on Wednesday said the United Nations is in talks with Canada on speeding up the deployment of six helicopters to shore up its peacekeeping force in Mali.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif said Canada will send the helicopters in August but that the mission needs them in June when Germany pulls out of the mission with its fleet.

After two years of talks with the United Nations, Canada announced in March that it will send two Chinook transport helicopters and four Griffon attack helicopters to the MINUSMA mission in Mali.

Ongoing talks with Canada and Germany to avoid a vacuum were proceeding, said Annadif, who is the UN’s envoy to Mali.

“We want them in June,” he told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York.

According to sources, the United Nations has 13,000 troops and police in Mali, many of whom are deployed in the country’s lawless north.

The world body reported that seven of its peacekeepers have been killed in attacks in Mali this year alone.  The peacekeepers are serving in a mission that has been described as the UN’s most dangerous.

Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda and other international terror groups took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012 but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Islamic jihadists who are bent on instituting Sharia Law throughout West Africa remain active in the sub-region and are also linked to drug, arms and migrant trafficking in the vast Sahel region.

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Paul Stevens

Paul Stevens is a researcher, media issues analyst and senior contributor with Globe Afrique.

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