Distance a challenge for Cdn peacekeeping mission in Mali, commander says

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OTTAWA — The outgoing commander of Canada’s peacekeeping mission in Mali is blaming distance for the fact Canadian medical helicopters remained on the ground during two deadly attacks on UN peacekeepers last fall.

The attacks on Ber and Konna on Oct. 28 left two peacekeepers dead and more than a dozen injured.

It remains the single bloodiest day for the UN mission in Mali since Canadian peacekeepers arrived in June.

The main purpose of Canada’s mission in Mali is to provide medical evacuations by helicopter for injured peacekeepers and UN officials.

But Col. Chris McKenna, whose troops have performed only five medical evacuations since August, says the attacks were too far away and the UN decided to send other helicopters instead.

The episode underscores some of the challenges facing both the Canadians and UN officials in Mali, notably the country’s large size and a marked shift in violence from the remote north of the country to the centre and south.

The Canadian Press