135 peacekeepers depart for Mali

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With only a few international flights landing and leaving from Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, the city's international airport usually remains quiet. However, on Tuesday, the departure building was bustling with preparations involving a group of Chinese troops.

Chinese peacekeeping troops board a plane at the international airport in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, on Tuesday evening. The contingent of 35 engineers, 65 medical workers and 35 soldiers from the People's Liberation Army will serve an eight-month mission in Mali. [Wang Jing / China Daily]

A 135-strong peacekeeping troop left for Mali on Tuesday evening, in the first time China's army has sent security forces as part of a peacekeeping mission.

At the request of the United Nations, the People's Liberation Army sent the troops, made up of 35 engineers, 65 medical workers and 35 soldiers, to join the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali for eight months.

The Chinese peacekeepers, all from a Harbin-based contingent, will be tasked with repairing roads and bridges, safeguarding peace and stability, and providing medical assistance. This is China's 30th UN peacekeeping mission since 1990.

So far, more than 25,000 Chinese military personnel, police and civil affairs officials have participated in UN peacekeeping missions in 10 mission areas, making China the biggest contributor to such missions among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

However, this is the first time China has sent security forces on such a mission.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the Chinese security force will mainly guard the MINUSMA headquarters and the living areas of peacekeeping forces.

"The Chinese peacekeepers will abide by UN peacekeeping regulations and play a constructive role in safeguarding peace and stability in Mali and the region as a whole," said Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the ministry.

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