The United Kingdom will deploy 300 troops to Mali this week as part of the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA), the British Ministry of Defense announced on Thursday.
The mission comprising 250 soldiers and a support team of 50 will be based in Gao, some 320 southeast of Timbuku. The troops is mandated to conduct patrols to gather intelligence and dialogue with the local population to help the UN respond to threats by extremist violence and weak governance, the ministry’s statement said.
This peacekeeping mission is completely separate from the French operation Barkhane, which hunts jihadist groups active in northern Mali. But both forces will operate in the same region, the statement added.
Some members of British forces arrived in Mali on Wednesday and the rest will follow by December 8. They join some 14,000 UN peacekeepers from 56 countries. According to Defense Minister Ben Wallace, the commitment reflects "the importance of improving security in the Sahel by protecting communities.’’
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom will remain engaged, with three Chinook helicopters and about 100 troops, in support of the French Operation Barkhane under a government-to-government agreement until June 2021.
MINUSMA was deployed in Mali in July 2013, after jihadist groups took control of the north of the vast Sahelian country in 2012. They were largely dispersed by a military intervention launched in January 2013 at the initiative of France. But entire zones remain beyond the control of Malian, French and UN forces.
MINUSMA is one of the most important missions of the UN. Currently, it is one of the most deadliest with more than 220 deaths since its deployment, including more than 130 in hostile acts. Its mandate was renewed for one year at the end of June by the UN Security Council.