Defense "falls seriously short" in ensuring Dutch soldiers' safety in Mali: Safety Board

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Photo: Commons)Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (Photo: Commons)

The Ministry of Defense "falls seriously short" in ensuring the safety of Dutch soldiers deployed to the UN mission in Mali, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in its investigation into an accident in which two Dutch soldiers were killed and another was injured when a mortar grenade exploded during a training exercise last year. Both the safety of the grenade and the medical care were not in order, ANP reports.

Soldiers Henry Hoving and Kevin Roggeveld were killed when a 60 mm mortar grenade exploded during training in July last year. A third Dutch soldier sustained serious injuries. 

According to the Safety Board, the grenade had weaknesses in its design. The explosives were bought under huge time pressure by the United States Ministry for a mission in Afghanistan in 2006. The Dutch Defense Ministry omitted procedures and controls, because Defense thought the US Army used the ammunition itself and checked its safety - despite the fact that the purchase contract explicitly stated that this was not the case. 

After the Afghanistan mission ended, the grenades were sent to the Mali mission. In Mali, the grenades were stored in a container which was not chilled, exposing them to high temperatures. When the Safety Board sent investigators to Mali this year to inspect the remaining grenades, they were not there. Defense informed the Safety Board that they were destroyed in the autumn of 2016. 

The Safety Board also criticized the medical care available to soldiers in Mali. At the Togolese hospital where the injured soldier was taken, the doctors dit not act "decisively enough". They also did not do a structured examination of the soldier's injury. Defense lacked supervision at the hospital. And according to the Board, concerns expressed on the matter were ignored. 

The Ministry of Defense released a statement saying that it will implement recommendations made by the Dutch Safety Board in its report. "The safety and health of our soldiers are paramount to everyone", Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said in the statement. "The accident in Kidal, in which 2 soldiers died and a third soldier was seriously injured, touched us all deeply. It is our duty to prevent repetition and provide complete openness to the relatives and our employees."