Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Special Forces in Mali, but Not in Combat Role, Sources Say

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Special Forces in Mali, but Not in Combat Role, Sources Say

Article excerpt

Canadian special forces in Mali: sources

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OTTAWA - Canada's special forces are on the ground in Mali to help protect Canadian personnel who are already operating in the troubled African country, say sources within the Department of National Defence.

Few other details were immediately available, although the Department of Foreign Affairs went to lengths to spell out that the presence of special forces soldiers does not signal an involvement in combat.

"We have been clear; there will be no mission in Mali," Rick Roth, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said in a statement.

"Steps have been taken to ensure our mission and Canadian personnel are protected. We cannot comment on security specifics."

Canadian Forces crews have been piloting and supporting Canada's C-17 heavy-lift transport as it moves military equipment in support of French troops.

That mission, which was originally only supposed to last a week, is now scheduled to continue until Feb. 15.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday that any further role for Canada would require consultation with parliamentarians.

"We are providing technical assistance to French and other military forces who are there. We have committed heavy-lift aircraft to that engagement, which is being done under a United Nations mandate," Harper told the House of Commons in response to a question from NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

"Of course, through this chamber and through committees, we will be consulting with parliamentarians on any further steps that need to be taken."

There had been speculation that the government would provide a smaller, C-130J Hercules transport to carry African troops into Mali, where forces are fighting to retake the northern half of the country from al-Qaida-linked militants.

The French had asked Canada to take on that role, but a number of other nations, including the United States and Britain, have kicked in air transports. …

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