‘Serious deficiencies’ by defence department caused fatal Mali accident: report

Soldiers march in formation

There have been ‘serious deficiencies’ in safety and medical care in the Dutch military during a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, according to a report by the Dutch Safety Board.

On Thursday it published its investigation into an accident on 6th July 2016, when a 60mm mortar set off a grenade during a practice session, killing two soldiers and seriously wounding another.

The report said that carrying out the mission had been prioritised over weapon safety and good medical facilities.

Although the mortar was properly loaded and had a ‘safe’ lock on, things went wrong because of weak spots in its design, which could have allowed moisture to penetrate.

Together with high temperatures, this apparently meant explosives in the ignition became unstable, leading to the accident.

Warn others

The report said that such equipment was bought by the military under time pressure in 2006 for a mission in Afghanistan, and procedures were not properly followed. Remaining grenades were taken to Mali, and not kept cool.

Victims of the accident did not receive proper medical treatment at a Togolee hospital either, the report said, noting the defence department has still not revised its options for acute medical care.

It said other countries using these grenades should be warned, medical care should be better assessed for international missions, and the defence department’s culture should change to be more open to raised flags from employees.

Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis told the NOS broadcaster it would be taking on the report’s recommendations.

Almost 300 Dutch soldiers have remained in Mali in 2017 on a UN mission to guard the fragile peace.