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Cabinet approves proposal to deploy Defence Forces personnel to UN mission in Mali

The approval comes after nearly 100 people were killed in recent days in a deadly massacre in the country.

Image: Defences Forces via RollingNews.ie

UPDATE 12/6/19: The death toll of the massacre has been revised down to 35, a final toll lower than the earlier estimate of 95 killed. 

CABINET HAS APPROVED a proposal to deploy Defence Forces personnel to the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). 

The potential deployment of personnel from the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) has been under consideration by Minister of State Paul Kehoe for some time. 

A total of 14 personnel will be deployed later this year and they will rotate every four months over a two-year period. 

The UN mission MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali) was established in April 2013 after an upsurge in violence.

The approval comes after nearly 100 people were killed in an overnight attack in a village in central Mali in recent days.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the massacre, targeting a village inhabited by the Dogon community, bore the hallmarks of tit-for-tat ethnic attacks that have claimed hundreds of lives.

The government, giving a provisional toll, said 95 people had been killed, 19 were missing, numerous farm animals had been slaughtered and homes had been torched.

“Armed men, suspected to be terrorists, launched a murderous attack on this peaceful village,” it said in a statement. 

A Malian security source at the site of the massacre said “a Dogon village has been virtually wiped out”.

In a statement this week to TheJournal.ie, the Department of Defence said Minister Kehoe is both saddened and concerned in relation to reports of a further deadly incident in Mali.

The attack comes less than three months after nearly 160 members of the Fulani ethnic group were slaughtered by a group identified as Dogon. 

The deadly raid took place on 23 March in the village of Ogassogou, home to the Fulani herding community, near the town of Mopti in central Mali.

The United Nations launched an investigation into the attack at the time. 

Irish Defence Forces

There are currently 20 Irish Defence Forces personnel deployed to the EU Training Mission (EUTM) in Mali. Ireland has participated in the mission since it was launched in 2013. 

The mission includes nine Irish personnel who occupy staff appointments in the mission headquarters in Bamako and 11 personnel who are based in the Koulikoro training centre. 

Koulikoro is located around 650 kilometres from where the incident in March took place. 

In March, Luke Ming Flanagan MEP called on the government to bring home the Irish personnel following the massacre. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie in March, the Department of Defence said Minister of State Paul Kehoe is “very concerned at the horrific reports” of that massacre. 

The Department said the “massacre and senseless loss of innocent lives underlines the need for an international presence and highlights the important function of the UN mandated EU Training mission”.

“Continued participation in this mission supports Ireland’s ongoing obligations to international peace and security and the commitment to maintaining the Defence Forces capabilities in international operations”, the Department said. 

UN mission

The deployment of Defence Forces personnel to the UN Mission in Mali will be the first deployment of the ARW overseas in their special forces role since their deployment to Chad in 2008.

It is the government’s stance that as a committed supporter of UN action in this area, Ireland cannot remain aloof from this international effort, notwithstanding the risks involved.

The decision on the deployment will be subject to the ‘Triple Lock’, which, after Cabinet approval, will proceed to seek the approval of the Dáil. 

A very detailed review of the mission by both civil and military personnel in the Department of Defence, along with a full threat assessment by the Defence Forces, was undertaken as part of the mission reconnaissance and assessment process.  

From a security perspective, the Defence Forces general staff are satisfied that there are robust precautions in place to ensure the safety and protection of any forces deployed to the mission, while acknowledging that no mission is without its dangers and that this UN mission is particularly dangerous.

In the Department of Defence’s statement to TheJournal.ie this week, it said: ”The latest massacre further underlines the need for a strong international presence and highlights the importance of the UN mandated EU Training Mission (EUTM Mali) and the UN led mission, MINUSMA, in Mali.

“The Defence Forces deployment is due to commence later this year and the contingent will be drawn primarily from the Army Ranger Wing.  The “triple lock” conditions will of course need to be satisfied in advance of that deployment.  This deployment to the UN Mission in Mali will complement Ireland’s current contributions to the EU training mission in Mali. 

“Ireland has the capacity to enhance the effectiveness of this UN mission and to contribute to security and stability in this key region in support of the UN, the EU and Ireland’s Development Aid Programme.”

With reporting by © AFP 2019

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