News BlogWest Africa - SahelMissions Operations

Two Belgian soldiers injured in Mali by an iED

(B2) Two Belgian soldiers were seriously injured on the first day of 2020 in Mali. They belonged to the MINUSMA reconnaissance and intelligence battalion 

Belgian forces vehicle at the Minusma camp in Gao (credit: Mil.be – December 2019)

Stable state

He was “10 a.m. (Belgian time)” when the vehicle in which the soldiers were found " rolled over an improvised explosive device (FDI)”. " They were transferred to the role 2 hospital in Gao. Their condition is stable and families have been notified. “, announced the Belgian Defense. " A third soldier was also transferred for control. »

An ongoing investigation

The defense did not specify either the unit to which these soldiers belonged or the operation in which they were operating, simply indicating that “ an investigation is underway, no further communication will be given on the subject ". But we can already give some details…

An evacuation to Barkhane in the first place

According to our information, the soldiers were evacuated to the field hospital (role 2) of the French operation 'Barkhane'. They belonged to the ISTAR battalion (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, & Reconnaissance) of the Minusma, in charge of intelligence and reconnaissance missions for the United Nations mission.

Men from the ISTAR Battalion

It is normally the men of the Herverlee Horse Hunter Battalion who provide this force. Even if this information has not been officially confirmed, according to the Belgian defense, they regularly carry out reconnaissance missions north of Gao of varying duration, ranging from one day to seven days. The incident would not have occurred in this area, but in Agola (Boura), 20 km southwest of Ansongo according to Walid the Berber. That is to say an area not far from 'the three borders', between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Point not denied by the Belgian defense.

A presence in three operations

Belgium is present in two operations: 90 soldiers serve within MINUSMA, the United Nations stabilization mission in Mali, around half of whom (mainly coming from the Horse Hunter Battalion) in the Istar battalion. Around ten soldiers are also present as part of the EU training mission of the Malian army (EUTM Mali) present in Bamako and Koulikoro. And three soldiers must join the Gao HQ of special forces of the new operation 'Takuba' launched at the initiative of France.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


A situation closely monitored by the government

Interim Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès assured " follow the situation closely “in connection with the Minister of Defense Philippe Goffin, in a message sent to Twitter. " My infinite gratitude to those who, on the ground, ensure our safety and defend our freedoms on a daily basis in the Sahel, she added. « We wish a speedy recovery to the injured Belgian soldiers assured for his part, Koen Vervaeke, the director of the Africa department of the EEAS (the European diplomatic service) on Twitter. " The participation of EU Member States in the various missions at the Mali is an essential component of the EU's commitment to Sahel ».

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).