British military personnel serving on a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali have escaped a “friendly fire” incident unharmed after Estonian troops mistook them for Islamist insurgents.
A minibus carrying the RAF crew and UK troops was fired upon from a French special forces base after the Estonian soldiers believed that they were attempting to infiltrate the garrison.
The Estonians, attached to the French-led counterinsurgency Operation Barkhane, are based near the eastern city of Gao, which had experienced a violent Islamist insurgency.
They claimed that the shooting was caused by the British failing to fill in the correct paperwork, which created confusion. They had been manning a sandbagged machine-gun post when what they saw as an unidentified vehicle appeared.
The British personnel were driving to RAF helicopters deployed alongside the French forces when it came under fire.
A UK military official said: “It was obviously a misunderstanding, but the consequences could have been very serious with a real risk of casualties. We were very lucky no one was hurt.”
Captain Taavi Karotamm, an Estonian Defence Force spokesman, said: “Estonian troops that were manning a control post opened fire at an unidentified vehicle. All procedures were correctly followed by Estonian troops and no Estonian or allied personnel were harmed.”
The Ministry of Defence in London said: “We can confirm an incident took place in August involving UK personnel in Mali, and that all personnel involved were unharmed.”
A 300-strong British force composed of light cavalry reconnaissance troops have been operating in the region. The patrols were recently involved in a firefight with suspected Daesh fighters, the first major contact involving regular British troops since the conclusion of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014.
© 2021, GDC. © GDC and www.globaldefensecorp.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to www.globaldefensecorp.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.