Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Planning to Provide Air Transport for French Counter-Terror Mission

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Planning to Provide Air Transport for French Counter-Terror Mission

Article excerpt

Military looks to support France in Africa

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OTTAWA - As the Liberal government contemplates which United Nations peacekeeping mission to join, the Canadian military is gearing up to support a major French counter-terrorism operation in northern Africa.

Defence officials say planning is underway for Canada to send military transport aircraft to help France in its fight against Islamic militant groups in five countries: Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

About 3,000 heavily armed French troops have been hunting al Qaeda-linked fighters in the region, called the Sahel, since August 2014. Code-named Operation Barkhane, the mission has also been recently tasked with supporting UN peacekeepers in Mali if required.

National Defence spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said plans have not been finalized, but Canadian transport planes are expected to move French troops and equipment into the region.

Canadian military aircraft carried nearly 40 tonnes of equipment between France and Africa with three different flights last year. They also flew French armoured vehicles, medical supplies and ammunition into Mali in early 2013. French officials have repeatedly praised Canada's assistance.

The difference this time is that the Liberal government is considering whether to send Canadian peacekeepers to Mali, where the UN has been conducting a peacekeeping mission in parallel with the French counter-terrorism operations.

The peacekeeping mission is intended to stabilize the country after the Malian government and Tuareg rebels signed a peace agreement last year. The Tuaregs, a traditionally nomadic people who live in the north of Mali, had launched an uprising in 2012 aimed at gaining independence. …

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