British service personnel serving on a UN mission in Mali narrowly escaped getting shot after coming under ‘friendly fire’ from a French Special Forces base.
A minibus carrying the RAF crew and UK troops was hit by live rounds after being mistaken for enemy fighters trying to infiltrate the base near the eastern city of Gao which had experienced a violent Islamist insurgency.
Estonian soldiers attached to a French led counter-insurgency operation, Barkane, who carried out the shooting claimed that the British had failed to fill in the correct paperwork creating 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 four UK Chinook helicopters which have been deployed with the French operation when it came under fire.
A British 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 stated: “We can confirm an incident took place in August involving UK personnel in Mali, and that all personnel involved were unharmed.”
The French military said their forces were not involved in the incident.
A 300-strong UK force, the Long Range Reconnaissance Group (LRRG) is operating in the region. it has been involved in firefight with suspected Isis fighters and carried out a number of arrests following a jihadist massacre.
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