Two Dutch United Nations peacekeepers were killed when their Apache attack helicopter crashed in northern Mali, the Dutch military said, calling it an accident.
The helicopter, from the UN’s MINUSMA mission, crashed about 20km from Gao on Tuesday, a source from the city’s airport told AFP news agency, adding that two pilots were injured and subsequently died.
Top Dutch defence commander, General Tom Middendorp, later confirmed the crash at a press conference in The Hague.
“This afternoon around 1300 GMT a Dutch Apache attack helicopter crashed in Mali,” Middendorp said.
This is one of the Apaches. Four were based in Gao, together with three Chinook transport helicopters. pic.twitter.com/0ZN8Eed4lI
— Kees Broere (@keesbroere) March 17, 2015
“A 30-year-old captain and 26-year-old first lieutenant died in the accident.”
Middendorp said Dutch investigators were probing the crash.
The captain died on impact, while the first lieutenant died of his wounds shortly afterwards at a French military field hospital in Gao, Middendorp added.
Both men were members of 301 Squadron based in Gilze-Rijen airbase in southern Netherlands.
MINUSMA has some 11,000 personnel on the ground in Mali, around 670 of whom come from the Netherlands.
With more than 40 peacekeepers killed since its inception in 2013, MINUSMA is considered the most dangerous UN mission in the world, particularly for the Chadian contingent, which has sustained a large proportion of the casualties.
In a statement, the UN Security Council called it a “tragic accident” and sent condolences to the families of the dead and the Dutch government.