First Dutch soldiers off to Mali
The first unit of Dutch soldiers that will serve as part of the UN stabilization force in Mali (Minusma) left Schiphol yesterday.
The Ministry of Defense said that in the next couple of weeks some 300 more soldiers will leave to join the UN forces in the north African country. Among them will be commandos, members of Apache helicopter unit and information specialists. Most Dutch soldiers will be deployed in Gao, the capital of Mali, but the Netherlands is also sending units to the UN headquarters in Bamako. Parliament approved sending soldiers to Mali late last year; for now the intention is to aid Minusma until the end of 2015. Trouble sparked in the north African country last year when Islamist militants took control over the north. France was the first to send in soldiers and at the height of the crisis, the country had a force of about 4,500 in its former colony. In July last year, France handed over responsibility for security to Minusma. The Netherlands announced last week that it is also sending three Chinook helicopters of the airforce for medical evacuations, transport duties and tactical mobility.