Commendable move risking their lives to avert disaster

The Sri Lankan Peace Keeping Force in Mali. Picture courtesy

The Sri Lankan battalion attached to the UN Peace Keeping Force in Mali deployed only two weeks ago in the African nation, uncovered and diffused a 35 kg remotely controlled mine, while en-route to Mopti, averting a disaster.

Army sources who contacted personnel in Mali confirmed to the Daily News, that the contingent was tipped off to search a suspected area while they were on their way to Mopti. “It was here that they found this 35 kg remotely controlled explosive device,” he said. “They risked their lives to uncover and diffuse it. Their valiant efforts to avert a major disaster is commendable.”

The Sri Lankan contingent comprises of around 200 army personnel with 15 officers from the Combat Convoy Company (CCC) and 185 other rankers from ten regiments. The contingent is commanded by Lt. Colonel Kalana Amunupure with Major Hasantha Hennadi as his Second-in-Command.

The Sri Lankan troops who have been deployed to Mali are assisting the ongoing United Nations Peace Keeping Force to support the political process and carry out a number of security-related tasks. The Sri Lankan soldiers in Mali, underwent a rigorous vetting process in keeping with UN requirements prior to deployment.

The Sri Lankan Army in a recent release on the ongoing peacekeeping mission stated, that Sri Lanka was seeking to enhance and expand its participation in UN pacekeeping. “Such expansion of Sri Lanka’s participation which would entrust Sri Lanka Security Forces with responsibilities of an international scale have to be carried out in coordination and cooperation with the United Nations and Sri Lanka’s bilateral partners.

It is the responsibility of Sri Lanka to ensure that the personnel deployed are Sri Lanka’s best.”

Although the U.N. mission in Mali, known by its French acronym MINUSMA is yet to publicise the finding of the Sri Lankan blue helmets, it is widely known that Mali is one of the deadliest peacekeeping missions for UN peacekeepers to-date.

Earlier last week, UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric commenting on the UN Peacekeeping mission to Mali, welcomed a move by Canadian government which intended to send six helicopters and 250 airmen there. “Mali has been one of the deadliest peacekeeping missions for UN peacekeepers over the last few years. Unfortunately, on a monthly basis almost, if not more, we have seen peacekeepers being attacked, targeted or killed by improvised explosive devices,”he said.

The last casualty was reported in September last year when three blue helmet personnel were killed and five others were seriously injured when a convoy escorting the forces either hit a mine or triggered an explosive device in Northern Mali.

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