Up to 200 British military personnel will be deployed to Africa to help train an intervention force for Mali, Downing Street has confirmed as the UK’s involvement in the conflict to drive out Islamist militants deepens.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has confirmed that the troops will be in addition to the up to 40 personnel Britain is deploying to contribute to a European Union training mission inside Malian.
The UK has offered to supply a roll-on, roll-off ferry to help transport heavy equipment to the French intervention force and allow allies to fly air-to-air refuelling missions from British airbases in support of the French operation
David Cameron earlier told French President Francois Hollande that Britain is “keen” to help with the military operation to oust Islamist militants in Mali and despatched his security adviser, Sir Kim Darroch, to Paris for talks.
Mr Cameron has ruled out a combat role for British personnel. Currently the RAF is providing two heavy-lift C-17 transport planes and a Sentinel surveillance aircraft to assist the French operation.
Rebels rally in north
Rebel Tuareg fighters in northern Mali claimed they have seized control of the city of Kidal and seven other northern towns from Islamist extremists. A statement posted to the website of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad – the Tuaregs’ name for northern Mali — made the claim today.
The statement comes as French and Malian forces say they control the fabled desert city of Timbuktu. The group said it is “fully subscribed to the fight against terrorist organisations” and pledged to work with French troops.
However, they have “categorically refused” to allow the return of the Malian army, which it has accused of summary executions of civilians.
Footage below of the destruction of monuments and manuscripts in Mali