By Patrick Corby
Britain has agreed to help transport troops and equipment into Mali in an effort to help halt and contain the advance of Malian Islamic rebels in the former French colony.
Since Friday, France has thrust itself into the Sub-Saharan country of Mali, which is home to 30,000 expatriates, in an effort to quell the growing conflicts there.
On Friday, French soldiers lost control over the strategically important town of Konna to Islamic rebels. The central city has now been recaptured.
In April 2012 Islamic rebels took control over Northern Mali, and have since swept south over the nation. They have now hit French bases in an effort to gain military control over Bamako, the Malian capital.
After a phone call on Saturday between British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande, the British have now pledged their support.
A British spokeswoman for the Prime Minister stated: “The prime minister has agreed that the UK will provide logistical military assistance to help transport foreign troops and equipment quickly.” She added that, “We will not be deploying any British personnel in a combat role”.
Britain has confirmed that two RAF C-17s aircrafts are to be at French disposal, in order to combat the rebels, within 48 hours. This gives the French the lifting capacity that its own military lacks.
The two C-17s are to left Oxfordshire yesterday to load up in the French Evreux air base, taking on armoured vehicles and equipment. They fly out into the deserts of Mali today.
One of the British planes will be stationed in Mali with the French military; the other will be transporting items back and forth from France to Africa over the next few days.
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman explained: “Both leaders agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security, given terrorist activity there.”
Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, has been quick to reiterate that British aide will extend only to “very limited strategic tactical support”.
Mali is situated strategically enough to engage with Yemen, Somalia and North Africa, countries and areas that have large Islamist rebel bases.
Those African nations helping to stop the rebels in Mali include Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo. The 15-nation West African bloc the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS), has now agreed to meet and discuss a military campaign of 3,300 African soldiers against the Malian rebels.
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