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A UN peacekeeper salutes as he participates in a ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport
A UN peacekeeper salutes as he participates in a ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport in February before departing for Mali. Heng Chivoan

More troops injured in Mali

At least 11 Cambodian UN peacekeepers in Mali were injured after their camp was hit by a storm on Tuesday night, the latest incident in what has been a rough and sometimes tragic mission for the contingent.

A preliminary report indicated that a “strong storm” levelled a number of tents in the camps and injured the soldiers, said Ouk Bunthan, deputy director of mines and explosive war remnants clearance at the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces.

“We are waiting for an official report,” Bunthan said. “This is first time that our Blue Helmets have been injured because of a natural disaster.”

According to the online news site Cambodia Express News, two soldiers were seriously injured and nine were slightly hurt. Twenty-three tents were destroyed.

The soldiers are the latest casualties of Cambodia’s peacekeeping mission to Mali.

Last week, two were injured after their car drove over a landmine, and another two died from food poisoning in early June. Their bodies were repatriated later that month.

The two fatalities were the first deaths in Cambodia’s eight years of contributions to UN peacekeeping forces around the world.

The Ministry of Defence dispatched a total of 309 members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to Mali earlier this year.

The Mali contingent of the RCAF is the first from Cambodia to be sent to that country, where it mostly performs airport upkeep, ordnance removal, and demining. It is part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, which deploys 12,640 peacekeepers in Mali’s troubled north.

Mali has been in a state of chaos since an invasion by Tuareg rebels in the north sparked a coup in March 2012 which ousted former president Amadou Toumani Toure.

France, which once ran a colony in Mali, sent a military force to stabilise the country and initially defeated the rebels. The conflict has dragged on longer than expected, however, and France has delayed its scheduled 2014 withdrawal.

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