The Sri Lankan combat contingent deployed in Mali will return home shortly before Christmas after the Blue Helmets decided to pull out of the West African country owing to the turbulence in the region, a senior military official said yesterday.
The contingent comprising 243 personnel including 20 officers who had been deployed in that country since 2017 and the mission will be terminated on December 15, he said.
The Sri Lankan contingent is mainly tasked with the movement of cargo containers (primarily 20 ft. containers), movement of bulk fuel and potable water, providing crane/forklift capacity for loading and unloading containers, providing a 10 MT rough terrain forklift for the movement of limited cargo at each team site, providing heavy recovery capability (Heavy trucks and APCs) and provide heavy lift capability.
The Sri Lankan contingent had experienced many terrorist activities during the past five years although there was no loss of life, he said
He said that Sri Lanka was hopeful of receiving more UN peacekeeping placements in the near future and that the authorities are working towards this end.
Sri Lanka has been an active member of the Blue Helmets since 1957 and at present it has 400 personnel in UN contingents based in several countries.
Since 2004, five Sri Lankan peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice for global peace while on duty. A further six Sri Lankan peace keepers have also sustained injuries while on duty during this same period.
At present, Sri Lanka Army troops are deployed in three UN missions: United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The Sri Lanka Army has deployed 434 members as peacekeepers in the three UN missions. Since its inception, the Sri Lanka Army had contributed 20,520 troops to date.
The Sri Lanka Navy commenced its involvement in UN peacekeeping missions in 2005 when it deployed one officer and 49 sailors to the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti.
Since 2005, the SLN has deployed 38 officers and 834 sailors in UN contingents. Seven SLN officers have served as staff officers and observers.