UK & World News
Mali: RAF Plane Heads To Conflict
An RAF surveillance aircraft has been deployed in support of the French military action in Mali, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
Prime Minister David Cameron pledged extra help for the mission this week amid concern over the threat posed by Islamist militants in North Africa.
The Sentinel R1 - which usually carries a crew of five - has now been added to two C17 Globemaster transport aircraft which have already been sent to the region.
It took off from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "We have now decided to deploy Sentinel, a surveillance capability that has proved its worth in Libya and on an ongoing basis for counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan.
"We have also agreed to continue to make available a C17 heavy lift transport aircraft which has already provided important logistical support over recent days."
Mr Cameron has insisted that Britain does not intend to deploy ground troops.
He spoke earlier this week of a global "generational struggle" against al Qaeda-inspired Islamist terrorism in North Africa.
He said the UK should "thicken" links with the region following this month's hostage crisis in Algeria.
Britain will provide troops to an EU mission to train the Malian military to take on Islamist militants who have taken over the north of the country, he added.
The mission, due to deploy in February or March, is expected to include around 250 trainers and 250 force protection troops.
Mr Cameron said the British contribution would number "in the tens, not the hundreds", with aides saying it would be at the lower end of that range.