German military helicopter crashes in Mali, two peacekeepers killed
A German military helicopter assigned to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali crashed in the West African nation's desert north on Wednesday, killing the two crew members, the German military said, APA reports quoting Reuters.
The Tiger helicopter crashed around midday about 70 km (45 miles) north of Gao, burning out completely with no survivors. The crash was reported by a second helicopter following in the mission.
"We have now certainty that two soldiers have given their lives in the service of our country," German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference. The Germans were the first killed in combat since 2013 in Afghanistan, a military spokesman said.
Germany increased its commitment to the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission this year with the deployment of eight attack and transport helicopters and 350 additional soldiers to Mali where fighters with links to al Qaeda regularly target Malian soldiers and U.N. troops.
A German military officer in Berlin said there was no indication the helicopter had been downed by an attack.
"The reason for the crash is still completely open. There is no evidence at this point of any outside factors," Vice Admiral Joachim Ruehle, deputy inspector general of the armed forces, told reporters.
German military investigators will head to the scene on Thursday to search for the helicopter’s flight data recorder, he said.
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