Recent attacks on Portuguese peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, where they are part of a United Nations stabilization force, are indicative of the increased role the Iberian nation is playing in the African continent as it steps up its focus on fighting emerging terror threats.

Decades after Portugal formally ended its more than 500-year-old empire in Africa, the Portuguese military has returned in force. From Mali to Somalia, and now the Central African Republic the state of Portugal has been increasingly active in peacekeeping operations and counter-terrorism efforts in Africa.

A contingent of Portuguese peacekeepers came under fire on April 1 in the capital Bangui. The force had been deployed to PK5, a historically Muslim neighborhood in the Christian majority nation when it came under fire. That incident sparked further operations against armed groups in the neighborhood. In total the operation left as many as 21 civilians dead and injured scores including peacekeepers with the U.N.’s Minusca mission.

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