Two German UN peacekeepers were killed Wednesday when their military helicopter crashed as they were monitoring clashes in northern Mali’s desert, German and UN officials said.
UN diplomats confirmed that the attack helicopter and the crew had been supplied by Germany to MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali.
“Sadly we now know that two Bundeswehr (German army) soldiers have given their lives for our country,” German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in Berlin late Wednesday.
According to German army Vice Admiral Joachim Georg Ruehle, standing beside her, the helicopter crew did not issue any distress calls and there were no firm indications as to the cause of the crash which happened 70 kilometers north of the city of Gao.
“The reason for the crash is still completely open. There is no evidence at this point of any outside factors,” Ruehle told reporters.
The army believes the Tiger helicopter was the victim of “a massive technical failure,” the German magazine Der Spiegel reported.
MINUSMA in a statement confirmed the two UN peacekeepers had been killed and that the crash was thought to have been the result of a mechanical failure.
A UN source in Gao said earlier that nothing at this stage would suggest the aircraft was hit or shot at as it monitored fighting in the area.
The United Nations operation, launched in 2013, is considered the UN’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission, with dozens of its staff killed over the last four years.
Germany has reinforced its presence in Mali this year, deploying several Tiger combat helicopters and raising the number of Germans serving in MINUSMA to 639 as of June, the army’s largest presence overseas.
Germany has also troops serving in Mali as part of a separate European Union mission.