Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada extends Mali aid a month

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OTTAWA -- Defence Minister Peter MacKay says a heavy-lift Canadian air force transport plane will continue to assist French forces in Mali for another month.

The commitment involving the C-17 Globemaster, which has been shuttling war material, vehicles and troops between France and the Malian capital of Bamako, was set to expire Friday.

MacKay confirmed the extension to March 15 on Thursday.

"We received a request a few days ago, but it was a request that came to us through military channels," MacKay said.

He offered no details on the status of the special forces contingent deployed to protect the Canadian Embassy in Bamako, which had been scaled back.

It is the second extension for the Canadian support mission, which kicked off in early January after French forces intervened in the former west African colony where al-Qaida-linked militants had threatened to overrun the country.

In January, air force planners cleared the schedule of the C-17 transport, which is attached to 429 Squadron out of CFB Trenton, Ont., for up to three months to give the government flexibility in the unfolding situation.

French forces have made quick work of militant strongholds, pushing them out of many provincial towns in the northern part of Mali. But fears of an Afghanistan-style insurgency have taken hold as both Western and African troops have faced roadside bombs and ambushes in some areas that were thought cleared of guerrillas.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 15, 2013 A18

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