Canada looks to deepen involvement in Mali by sending up to 20 police officers

The federal government plans to deepen Canada's involvement in Mali by sending up to 20 police officers to help the UN and European Union train local security forces.

The initiative represents the latest component of Canada's peacekeeping efforts in the West African nation, where eight helicopters and 250 military personnel are being deployed to provide medical evacuations and other support to the UN.

Officials say the government is still determining where the UN and EU, both of which have already been training local forces, need Canadian police officers, as well as the level of risk Canada is willing to accept.

The assessment comes as the first Canadian military helicopter and another group of service members are due to arrive in Mali this week, where they are scheduled to officially take over from the existing German helicopter contingent next week and begin flying missions on Aug. 1.

It also follows decades of aid investments as well as plans to spend millions in the coming years on the training of military and counter-terror forces in Mali and the surrounding region.

Mali has been riven by conflict since a rebellion in the north and a coup in the capital in 2012, with Islamic jihadists stoking internal divisions within the country and targeting UN and Malian forces in recent years.