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UK extends Mali deployment

RAF Chinook
RAF Chinook in Mali. Photo: Royal Air Force

The UK defense ministry has extended the deployment of three RAF Chinook helicopters and 100 personnel to Mali, in support of the French-led counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel region of West Africa.

Personnel from RAF helicopter base Odiham have been deployed in non-combat roles in Mali since 2018, with the aircraft contributing a logistical capability to the operation.

The Chinooks and aircrew allow French troops to cover a much larger field of operations, by moving personnel to the French bases spread across Mali, eliminating the need for dangerous road moves, and helping to move support equipment to strategic locations.

Alongside international partners, French forces operate across the Sahel to counter the threat from militants linked to groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh. Forces deployed on this mission have had a number of successes and recently killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and several other high-profile members of the group.

The UK defense ministry added that 250 UK personnel would be deployed to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali later this year., also based in Gao. Responding to a UN capability gap, personnel from The Light Dragoons and The Royal Anglian Regiment will form a long range reconnaissance capability. The initial deployment as part of a 12,500 strong international force is scheduled to last three years.

“Combating extremism in the Sahel is vital for the security of the wider region and the UK will play it’s part tackling the declining security situation,” minister for the armed forces James Heappey said. “West Africa is as important to the United Kingdom as it has ever been and we have many friends and allies in the region who share our desire to promote peace and prosperity. “