Dutch airstrikes on Mali"self defense": UN

Dutch troops have fired on Tuareg rebels from the air in northern Mali. The airstrike was in response to rebels firing on peacekeepers with heavy weapons, the UN mission in Mali said in an official statement. The Dutch Ministry of Defense confirmed that two Apache helicopters were used.

The airstrike was carried out when the rebels were advancing on the city Tabankort, 200 kilometers north of Gao, where the pro-government militia is stationed. The UN stated that warning shots were fired first at a vehicle from which shots were being fired. When the occupants of the vehicle continued firing, the Apache helicopters were used to make the vehicle harmless.

According to the UN, the action was in line with the mandate of the of the UN troops, who may use violence if citizens, military personnel or equipment are endangered. The Dutch military mission is primarily intended to provide information, but may be used for violence in emergencies. Four Dutch Apache helicopters, among other things, are available for the mission.

A spokesperson for the rebels told Reuters that five fighters were killed in the airstrike.