UN wants Canada to send helicopters to Mali sooner

The United Nations is in talks with Canada on speeding up the deployment of six helicopters to shore up its peacekeeping force in Mali, a UN envoy said on Wednesday.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif said Canada will send the helicopters in August but that the mission needs them in June, when Germany pulls out of the mission with its fleet.

After two years of talks with the United Nations, Canada announced in March that it will send two Chinook transport helicopters and four Griffon attack helicopters to the MINUSMA mission in Mali.

Annadif, who is the UN's envoy to Mali, said talks were ongoing with Canada and Germany to avoid a vacuum.

"We want them in June," he told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York.

The United Nations has 13 000 troops and police in Mali, many of whom are deployed in the country's lawless north.

Seven UN peacekeepers have been killed in attacks in Mali this year alone, serving in a mission that has been described as the UN's most dangerous.

Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

Insurgents remain active, linked to drug, arms and migrant trafficking in the vast Sahel region.

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