A roadside bomb which injured three members of the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) in Mali was probably laid by a child who was paid just €1.50 by Islamic extremists to carry out the highly-dangerous task.
UN observers in the war-torn country, which is nearly four times the size of France, have said extremists allied to Isil and al-Qaeda are paying children a pittance to lay bombs.
Three members of the ARW were injured last week by one of the roadside bombs while on patrol near the lawless eastern city of Goa.
Fortunately, the force of the blast was deflected by the armour plating on the Moag Eagle light tactical vehicle they were travelling in.
The three injured soldiers, described as walking wounded, were taken to a local hospital for treatment.
A Defence Forces spokesman said that if they had been travelling in an unarmoured vehicle it was likely there would have been fatalities.
However, even before the ARW were deployed to the country last September they realised the potential risk of roadside bombs and planned accordingly to travel in high-risk areas in armoured vehicles.
The ARW is mainly operating in the eastern side of the vast country which has been described as one of the most dangerous places on earth.
They are deployed there as part of a UN mission, MINUSMA.
There are also other Irish troops based in based closer to the capital Bamako, which is less dangerous. They are helping to train the Mali government’s soldiers.
Apart from Islamic extremists, there is also infighting between various tribes, primarily between the Fulani, who are predominantly cattle-breeders, and the Bambara, who are farmers.
Islamic fundamentalists have forced the closure of over 3,500 schools in Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso because they do not like westernised education.
It’s estimated that more than 5,000 civilians have been killed in the two countries in the past year and several massacres have occurred in isolated villages.
Unicef say there are close to 5m children, many of them displaced refugees, who are in need of food.
A Defence Forces spokesman said the build up of Islamic extremists in the region had become more pronounced since Libya descended into civil war.
He said the ARW were carrying out patrols in areas where the civilian population is under threat.
“They’re trying to bring protection to daily life there,” the spokesman said.
The ARW is expected to stay in Mali for a further 18 months.