Canada will dispatch a helicopter task force with up to 250 soldiers to the West African nation of Mali as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
A senior government source told The Globe and Mail on Friday that the Canadians will replace a German contingent and are expected to be operational by August. The deployment is in response to a UN request.
The official announcement of the deployment is expected on Monday. It will be the first major Canadian peacekeeping mission in Africa since the early 1990s when troops were deployed in troubled operations in Rwanda and Somalia.
The UN mission in Mali, which has more than 11,000 troops and was established in 2013, is one of the most dangerous peacekeeping operations in the world, with troops and convoys regularly coming under attack from armed groups.
According to UN figures, 162 members of the UN mission have been killed since its inception.
But the senior source said the Canadian Armed Forces is confident that the risk to a helicopter task force is minimal.
Unlike ground forces, helicopters run little risk of confronting armed militants and having vehicles hit by IED explosives. No military helicopters have been downed by hostile fire in Mali.
Canada is expected to send two to four armed 146 Griffons and up to six Chinook battlefield transport helicopters. The operation will involve between 200 and 250 soldiers, including air crews, medical crews, support staff and a small contingent of special forces to provide armed protection.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telephoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands on Friday to inform them of the decision. Both leaders had been urging Mr. Trudeau to participate in the Mali mission.
The deployment will help fulfill a pledge Mr. Trudeau made last November in Vancouver to provide up to 600 troops and 150 police officers for UN peacekeeping operations over the next decade.
The security situation in Mali has been fragile since 2012, when armed groups captured the entire northern part of the country and were only pushed back after military intervention from France.