(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Canada will deploy an infantry unit and military trainers along with attack and transport helicopters to Mali for 12 months in support of an ongoing UN peacekeeping mission, the government announced Monday.
"The task force will include two Chinook helicopters to provide much-needed transport and logistics capability, as well as four armed Griffin helicopters for armed escort and protection," Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told a press conference.
A date for Canada's first deployment in Africa since its troubled mission to Rwanda in 1994 and the exact number of troops that will be sent have yet to be decided, he added.
The pledge comes after Ottawa last November said it would send a Hercules aircraft to the UN regional support center in Entebbe, Uganda, which backs UN operations throughout Africa, as well as make available to the UN a rapid response force of 200 soldiers.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, meanwhile, said the unit heading to Mali would include women soldiers to meet a demand for gender perspectives in securing peace and security in hotspots.
"One of our priorities is to increase women's participation in peacekeeping," she said.
In recent months, jihadists have ramped up their activities in central Mali, targeting domestic and foreign forces in outbreaks of violence once confined to the country's north.
Four United Nations peacekeepers were killed and four wounded in late February when a mine exploded under their vehicle in central Mali.
The peacekeeping mission, known by the acronym MINUSMA, currently has 12,000 military personnel and 1,900 police.
They have been deployed in Mali since 2013 to counter the jihadist insurgency and general lawlessness.
The Canadians, according to Sajjan, will conduct reconnaissance, facilitate medical evacuations for the 57 UN partner nations already on the ground in Mali, and help plan missions in the country.
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