Dutch Defence Minister resigns over soldier deaths in Mali

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Former Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
Former Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert

The Netherlands’ Defence Minister and the country’s military chief both resigned on Tuesday night over the 2016 deaths of two peacekeeping troops in Mali.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who has been a caretaker minister since national elections in March, had been under pressure to step aside, following the publication of a report into the artillery training accident that killed the two and injured a third officer.

The minister announced her resignation in parliament following a long debate into the report, which criticized the defence ministry for “serious shortcomings” in its care for troops sent on a peacekeeping mission in the West African nation.

“I have put my heart and soul into serving in the defence ministry,” she told lawmakers. “But it stops here, today.”

Hennis-Plasschaert, who has served in ministerial positions for five years, told lawmakers that defence chief General Tom Middendorp also was resigning.

According to the damning report, the two soldiers were killed instantly when a mortar shell exploded prematurely during a training exercise near a Dutch military base in Kidal in northern Mali.

It criticized the ministry for hastily buying the mortar shells in 2006 without conducting necessary checks.

Mali has been rocked by conflict since January 2012, as rebel groups in the northern parts of the country waged war against the government, seeking independence or greater autonomy for the region, also known as Azawad.

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