Major General Michael Lollesgaard, a Dane leading the UN’s efforts in Mali, told news agency Ritzau that Denmark has been asked to join a new battle-ready batallion of 550 troops as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) expansion into the dangerous northern region of the African country.
“It is a mobile unit that will consist of armoured vehicles and logistic soldiers as well as roadside bomb experts and battle units that can operate in the very hard to reach areas up north,” Lollesgaard said.
The general said that around half of the 250 requested Danish soldiers would be battle troops and the other half would be supply troops.
Lollesgaard said that the Danish troops would be joining a treacherous mission.
“There is no doubt that Mali is one of the most dangerous places one can be sent. We have had more than 50 deaths in the six months I’ve been here so this is definitely a very dangerous mission in which you face threats every single day,” he told Ritzau.
The Danish government has previously committed to an “additional military contribution” to MINUSMA, but meeting Lollesgaard’s request would require the approval of parliament.
The Danish People’s Party, which is the government’s largest support party and parliament’s second biggest party overall, expressed resistance to sending troops to Mali.
“It doesn’t immediately look like something, we can support. It is a very dangerous mission because there is total chaos in Mali. The Islamist groups are very strong down there,” DF spokesman Søren Espersen told Ritzau.
The German Defence Ministry said last week that it was working on “a possible extended support” of the UN mission in Mali which reportedly see German soldiers joining the MINUSMA efforts in northern Mali.
Denmark previously had 40 soldiers and a Hercules military transport in Mali, but pulled them out in June 2014 despite a UN request to extend the mission.
Major General Michael Lollesgaard. Photo: Astrid Dalum/Scanpix