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Commander of Romanian helicopter detachment in Mali: Terrorist groups have enormous freedom of movement

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elicopter Sikorsky S-76 B

AGERPRES special correspondent Cristian Lupascu reports: Romanian servicemen that participate in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have to answer major challenges that come from terrorist groups, but also from the environment conditions in which their activity is conducted, claims Commodore Ioan Mischie, commander of the Romanian airlift helicopter detachment "Carpathian Pumas"; deployed to Camp Castor in the city of Gao.

According to him, "terrorist groups have enormous freedom of movement on the territory of the Republic of Mali", but the temperatures that exceed in some periods 50 degrees, and also the sand storms represent a constant threat to servicemen and their equipment.

"The biggest adversary is the weather and the climate conditions, meaning very high temperatures and sand. As you can see, there is sand in the air now. Secondly, there are the groups of terrorists that have an enormous freedom of movement given the vastness of this state. It's 5.2 times bigger than Romania and nearly as big as France and Spain put together. There are other inherent problems, meaning the chain of command, which is a dual one, civilian-military, meaning any decision a serviceman takes is supervised by a civilian, which we haven't been accustomed to at home, but here, after approximately five months we got used to it and now we work well with them," Mischie mentions.

The commander of the Carpathian Pumas Helicopter Detachment emphasizes that the terrorist threat is all the greater as the possibilities to anticipate the actions of armed groups are nearly non-existent.

"They have only one paved road in this area and you will understand that all the roads are like the footpaths you see in Romania. Practically, terrorists move freely wherever they want. It's impossible to set up checkpoints in order to control their movements. Their big advantage is that they attack when they want, where they want. We, the servicemen, are not prepared to act. We cannot practically predict their movements. We practically have here a reactive not a proactive movement. We air patrol in hopes they don't attack, but the moment they do attack they choose themselves. It can never be predicted," Ioan Mischie explains.

The efforts of the Romanian servicemen to respond to all the requests for intervention are very high, given that Romania was the only country that ensured in the recent period interventions with military helicopters. In the first five months on mission, the Romanian helicopters had over 80 interventions, of which less than ten were medical evacuation missions.

"In the past three months we were the only military helicopters that acted on the entire territory of Mali, as the El Salvador helicopters, which are military, were grounded," mentions the head of the Romanian detachment in Camp Castor, Gao.

The Carpathian Pumas Helicopter Detachment is participating, since October 2019, in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali. They are executing medical evacuation, air patrol, search and rescue, research and reconnaissance, troop transport, VIP transport and transports of materials to ensure logistical support.

One hundred and twenty Romanian servicemen are deployed to Camp Castor in Gao. The UN mission to Mali is one of assistance for the Government of this country, against the backdrop of instability caused by inter-tribal disputes and the presence of terrorist groups.

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