UK & World News
Mali: British Military Plane Leaves For Mission
The first British military plane destined to assist the French operation in Mali has left for the initial stage of its mission, Sky sources say.
The RAF C17 is stopping off in Paris first to load before a 10-hour flight to the West African country and will not arrive there before tomorrow, the sources added.
It comes after Downing Street confirmed the Prime Minister had agreed to provide "logistical military assistance" to the French.
Meanwhile, France has now called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the conflict in Mali.
David Cameron spoke to Francois Hollande on Saturday evening as France attempted to contain al Qaeda-linked rebels in the north of the West African country.
French fighter jets and attack helicopters launched fresh strikes on Islamist strongholds in northern Mali on Sunday.
Prominent Islamist leader Abdel Krim - nicknamed "Kojak" - is reported to have been killed in the strikes.
A 600-strong multi-national West African force, authorised by the UN Security Council to help the Mali government reclaim control of the north of the country, is also on its way to the capital Bamako. It will be commanded by General Shehu Abdulkadir of Nigeria.
In addition, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Togo have all pledged around 500 troops this weekend, while Benin has said it will send 300 soldiers.
French military strikes on the country have already claimed the lives of at least 100 rebels in a fight over the strategic town of Konna.
Eleven Malian soldiers are reported to have been killed and a further 60 wounded in the recent fighting.
Mr Hollande has raised his country's terror threat level amid fears of retaliatory attacks in France.
He said France "has to take all necessary precautions" in the face of a terrorist threat, including "surveillance of our public buildings and our transport network".
A Downing Street spokesman said last night: "The Prime Minister spoke to President Hollande this evening to discuss the deteriorating situation in Mali and how the UK can support French military assistance provided to the Malian government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country.
"The Prime Minister has agreed that the UK will provide logistical military assistance to help transport foreign troops and equipment quickly to Mali.
"We will not be deploying any British personnel in a combat role.
"Both leaders agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security given terrorist activity there.
"They discussed the need to work with the Malian government, regional neighbours and international partners to prevent a new terrorist haven developing on Europe's doorstep and to reinvigorate the UN led political process once the rebel advance has been halted.
"The National Security Council, which was already due to meet on Tuesday, will now consider the situation in Mali and discuss what needs to be done to secure a lasting political settlement in Mali."
One French pilot has died in the military action after hundreds of French soldiers were deployed in the country.
Mr Hollande took action in Mali at the request of interim President Dioncounda Traore, who has declared a state of emergency.
Western governments expressed alarm on Thursday after an al Qaeda-linked rebel alliance captured Konna, a gateway towards the capital Bamako 600km (375 miles) south.
The Malian army has said it was attacking the "last pockets of resistance" by insurgents in Konna after they recaptured it with the help of the French.
Mr Hollande said the "terrorist groups, drug traffickers and extremists" in northern Mali "show a brutality that threatens us all." He vowed that the operation would last "as long as necessary".
The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has now authorised the immediate deployment of troops to Mali.
The bloc's commission president, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, said it made the decision "in light of the urgency of the situation".
For the past nine months, the Islamic militants have controlled a large swathe of northern Mali, a lawless desert region where kidnapping has flourished.
Mr Hollande said the operation was aimed in part at protecting 6,000 French citizens in Mali, including seven who are being held captive.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Senegal and Nigeria also responded to an appeal from Mali's president for help to counter the militants.
Late last year, the 15 nations in West Africa, including Mali, agreed on a proposal for the military to take back the north, and sought backing from the UN.
The Security Council authorised the intervention but imposed certain conditions, including the training of Mali's military, which has been accused of serious human rights abuses since a military coup last year sent the nation into disarray.
Al Qaeda's affiliate in Africa has been a shadowy presence for years in the forests and deserts of poverty-stricken Mali.
Most Malians adhere to a moderate form of Islam, but in recent months the terrorist group and its allies have taken advantage of political instability, taking territory they use to stock weapons and train forces.
The Islamists have insisted they want to impose Sharia only in northern Mali, though there long have been fears they could push further south.
what do you think?
we are sucking the oil dry in the middle east- now time for a few years of steadily increasing propaganda until we destroy another continent for the safety of man kind. love the world, but the people are rotten.
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Isn't Cameron just the bees knees when it comes to largesse with our money!
Cameron playing the great I am and interfering again
Obama must have been on the phone, and his poodle complied. Isn't Africa the Yanks next target, Africom and all that. Are we getting anything back in return for aiding the US in their schemes for world domination? Or is it just our dear leaders getting their pockets stuffed with gold, while the plebs pay for these adventures from our ever increasing taxes.
Its on behalf of theUN not us uk get it LoAR
You are so naive. NATO, Africom, you don't see the link?
John UN lad .if we do not act now when mali as a army then we will have to use our own ground forces
Africom+NATO, concentrate MH.
Have we not learnt anything since the second world war? Leave the blinkin French alone. The only time they want to know us is when they're in the doo-doo. Leave them. They'd do the same to us!
we need to help the french as if we need navel help they could bail us out. Remember we have a very small navel deterant because this govenment has dimantled ours.
mali has gold, so much gold! we want your gold Mali and we're coming! feel so sorry for resource rich countries :( and isn't it ironic that they are all the poorest countries in the world- the republic of congo is the most richest country on the planet bar none, more resources than you can get around your nut, yet they are the poorest country on earth torn apart from the inside out. wonder why?
Are you going to blame the Congo on the bad British too? Get a grip paranoid Jedi,greed is not just a problem of the west, or the ever increasing greedy east but a problem of the whole of mankind, I for one am glad the French are puting up a fight against al Qaeda, this bunch of radical fanatics need wiping off the face of this earth!
go and watch the xfactor!
Corruption in the Gov't of the Congo as with a lot of African Countries.
Mark, explain to me this- if we are fighting Islamic extremists in Mali, why are we arming them in Syria? no no you are just being paranoid jimmy! clown.
we dont need any more immigrants so please dont interfere as this will be the end result
And how much is this going to cost?
A lot more than it would cost to keep hard up pensioners warm this winter
Exactly Russell. Priorities all wrong.
More meddling where we wouldn't.
If we send troops to Mali it will be they who do all the fighting while the French will do as they did in Iraq and that is stay huddled round the main airport until it was all over. They never helped out at all.Their only positive input to any war was when they provided the Argies with exocet missiles to be used against us in the Falklands
See most comments getting thumbs down but no one seems to be putting on comments in support of this action
people don't have to comment if they don't want to. Thats why the thumbs are there.
So the north want sharia law in Mali, and England wants to fly the British flag in northern Ireland. Could someone please explain the difference.
I don't agree with helping the french. they where too busy selling exocets to the argentines and that still sticks in my throat a bit. But as a NATO partner I suppose that a transport plane is the least we can do. So be it.
Just decision to help out. Militant Islamists will attempt to gain a foothold in Europe and then the UK. If this scenario does happen, will UK Islamists supprt the UK Government or stand by Sharia law?
isn't sharia law that thing England protestants got going on in northern ireland
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can anyone explain why we want to fight Islamic extremists in Mali, but arm them to the teeth in Syria? oh yes- Mali has untapped gold in abundance and Syria's oil isn't under the control of the banking cartel and to all the orange cattle that is a matter of fact my ignorant friends :)