Dutch defense minister resigns over peacekeepers' deaths in Mali

FILE PHOTO - Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert delivers a speech before signing european military cooperation agreements at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch caretaker Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis said on Tuesday she was resigning after a report highlighted serious failures by her department during a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The Safety Board last week issued its findings about an incident on June 6, 2016, when a mortar killed two soldiers and gravely injured a third. It concluded that the ministry had let safety and medical standards slip in favor of pursuing strategic goals.

Hennis announced her resignation during a parliamentary debate just days before the caretaker government is due to be replaced by a new coalition under Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Hennis said General Tom Middendorp, head of the armed forces of the Netherlands, would also resign in response to the Saftey Board’s harsh finding.

The Dutch, who initially provided Apache helicopter squadrons to the Mali peacekeeping mission, are winding down their contribution, with troop numbers expected to drop to roughly 300 this year.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Gareth Jones