Dutch sending three Chinooks to Mali
The Netherlands is adding three Chinook helicopters to Mali to the Dutch stabilization forces in war torn Mali.
The twin-engine military aircraft will be used for medical evacuations, transport duties and tactical mobility, it has been announced. Government agreed to send Dutch forces to join the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) some five months ago, but according to a Defense Ministry press release issued over the weekend there is a risk of insufficient evacuation capacity; current MINUSMA has three rental helicopters available for med-evac, but these cannot be used under all circumstances. They are not fitted with self defense mechanisms and can only land at airports when they operate at night. Bot the UN and the Netherlands looked at alternatives. Cabinet has also decided that the Dutch soldiers will be housed in protective containers as opposed to tents. This decision was in reaction to attacks that have been carried out by suspected Islamist militants on Gao in northeast Mali. In total Government is sending 450 soldiers to Mali, to help restore safety and stability and protect the civilian population. The first units have meanwhile arrived to start setting up the Dutch base; the operational units and material that is being transported by sea are expected to arrive in the second half of April. The entire unit will be ready for MINUSMA operations by the end of May. The Chinook helicopters are expected to be in Mali by October. Mali exploded into violence when Tuareg separatist fighters tried to take over the north in early 2012. Islamist militants eventually occupied the region, triggering a French military intervention last year that drove most of the militants out. The French mission was later joined by MINUSMA forces.