Bundeswehr probe sheds new light on Mali chopper crash

German military helicopter lost its rotor blades before crashing in Mali

The Bundeswehr helicopter that crashed in Mali last month, killing two German soldiers, had lost its rotor blades before hitting the ground. The military stressed it was still too early to say what caused the crash.

Germany's military spokesman Jens Flosdorff indicated on Wednesday that it could take months before they know what exactly caused a military Tiger helicopter to crash during a peacekeeping mission in Mali last month.

His remarks came after an interim report by the German military - obtained by multiple news agencies - said that the Bundeswehr Airbus chopper, which crashed on July 26 about 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of the city of Gao, had begun breaking up while still in the air.

Read more: Bundeswehr soldiers killed in Mali honored in Germany

The Bundeswehr investigation found that the chopper had lost its main rotor blades before it crashed to the ground, killing both crewmembers – the first Bundeswehr casualties in combat in almost two years.

Watch video 02:30
Now live
02:30 mins.
DW News | 27.07.2017

Morning Q&A: Mali copter crash – Kate Brady

It was still unclear what caused the chopper to dive, or what caused parts of it including the main rotor blades to detach, Flosdorff said. Parts of the helicopter's flight data and cockpit voice recorders had been retrieved, although only one was still in good enough condition to be analyzed, he added.

Too early to point fingers

While Flosdorff warned against "hasty conclusions" over what caused the crash, an in-air break up could indicate that manufacturing or maintenance issuescontributed to the incident. Up until the crash, the chopper had been embarking on an "inconspicuous flight path," according to the report. At the time of the incident authorities had said that there were no indications that the Tiger had come under fire.

Speaking to the "Passauer Neue Presse" newspaper on Wednesday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said there was nothing to suggest that the crash "was connected with the pilots' training." 

Airbus, the helicopter's manufacturer, declined to comment on the report. A spokesman said only that the company was "aware of the interim report" and was "committed to support the investigation as and when required by the authorities."

Following the crash, Germany suspended all further flights with similar helicopters, pending the findings of the investigation. The Bundeswehr said it was also in contact with its French and Spanish counterparts, who also use the helicopter.

Read more: Germany's Bundeswehr mission in Mali

Related Subjects

The deployment of Tiger helicopters had already roused controversy among military ranks, as they required additional maintenance in Mali's high heat.

German forces are in Mali as part of the UN's MINUSMA peacekeeping mission, an effort to stabilize the country and support a peace agreement between the government and rebels. The deployment in Mali is considered one of the world's most dangerous UN missions.

Conflicts

DR Congo: UN's largest mission

Since 1999, the UN has been trying to pacify the eastern region of the DR Congo. The mission known as MONUSCO has nearly 20,000 soldiers and an annual budget of $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros). Despite being the largest and most expensive mission of the United Nations, violence in the country continues.

Conflicts

Darfur: Powerless against violence

UNAMID is a joint mission of the African Union and the UN in Sudan's volatile Darfur region. Observers consider the mission a failure. "The UN Security Council should work harder at finding political solutions, rather than spending money for the military's long-term deployment," says security expert Thierry Vircoulon.

Conflicts

S.Sudan: Turning a blind eye to fighting?

Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, nearly 4 million people have been displaced according to the UN. Some of them are being sheltered in UN compounds. But when clashes between government forces and rebels broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, the blue helmets failed to effectively intervene. Later, the Kenyan UNMISS commander was sacked by former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Conflicts

Mali: The most dangerous UN mission in the world

UN peacekeepers in Mali are monitoring compliance with the peace agreement between the government and an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels. But Islamist terrorist groups such as AQIM continue to carry out attacks making MINUSMA one of the UN's most dangerous military intervention in the world. Germany has deployed more than 700 soldiers as well as helicopters.

Conflicts

CAR: Sexual abuse scandals making headlines

MINUSCA, the UN's mission in Central Africa Republic has not helped to improve the image of the United Nations in Africa. French troops have been accused of sexually abusing children by the Code Blue Campaign. Three years on, victims haven't got any help from the UN. Since 2014, 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers have been deployed. Violence in the country has receded but tensions remain.

Conflicts

Western Sahara: Hope for lasting peace

The UN mission in the Westsahara known as MINURSO has been active since 1991. MINURSO is there to monitor the armistice between Morocco and the rebels of the "Frente Polisario" who are fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. In 2016, Morocco which has occupied this territory since 1976, dismissed 84 MINURSO staff after being angered by a statement from the UN Secretary-General.

Conflicts

Ivory Coast: Peaceful end of a mission

The UN mission in Ivory Coast fulfilled its objectives on June 30, 2016 after 14 years. Since 2016, the troops have been gradually withdrawn. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this was a "turning point for the United Nations and the Ivory Coast." But only after the full withdrawal will it be clearly known whether or not the mission was successful on a long-term basis.

Conflicts

Liberia: Mission accomplished

The UN deployment in Liberia is - as in neighboring Ivory Coast - will soon be history. The soldiers are leaving by mid-2017. Since the end of the 14-year civil war, UNMIL has ensured stability in Liberia and helped build a functioning state. Liberia's government now wants to provide security for itself. The country is still struggling with the consequences of a devastating Ebola epidemic.

Conflicts

Sudan: Ethiopians as peace promoters?

The UNISFA soldiers are patrolling the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both claim to be rightful owners of this territory located between the two countries. More than 4,000 blue helmets from Ethiopia are deployed. Ethiopia is the world's second largest peace-keeping contributor. At the same time, the Ethiopian army is accused of human rights violations back home.

Conflicts

Somalia: Future model AU mission?

UN peacekeepers in Somalia are fighting under the leadership of the African Union in a mission known as AMISOM. The soldiers are in the Horn of African country to battle the al-Shabaab Islamists and bring stability to the war-torn nation. Ethiopia, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria have all contributed their troops for AMISOM.

dm/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)