UK to send 250 troops to Mali as part of UN peacekeeping force

UN's mission to the country is world's deadliest, with 195 peacekeepers killed since 2013

The first Canadian troops load into United Nations troop carriers as they arrive at a United Nations base in Gao, Mali, on Sunday, June 24, 2018. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Britain  will send 250 troops to the North African nation of Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Monday that the troops had been authorised to join the UN mission in the city of Gao, in eastern Mali.

Britain’s contribution will join the UN’s 12,500 strong international force over a three-year mission to deliver peace to the country.

With 195 peacekeepers killed in the country since April 2013, the UN's mission there is the deadliest in the world.

Mali has been blighted by ethnic conflict since Tuareg separatists and allied militants, aligned with Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, took over vast areas of the country's north, including its second city of Timbuktu, in 2012.

“In one of the world’s poorest and most fragile regions it is right that we support some of world’s most vulnerable people and prioritise our humanitarian and security efforts in the Sahel,” UK Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said.

“UK service personnel will work with our partners in the region to help promote peace by combating the threat of violent extremism and protecting human rights in Mali."

In 2014 Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania formed the G5 Sahel, or Sub-Saharan Africa, to improve co-operation on development and security in the region.

A year later the G5 Sahel Joint Force was launched with France leading the counter-terrorism initiative.

French forces intervened in Mali in 2013, pushing back the separatist and Al Qaeda forces. Since then about 4,000 French troops have remained in the country alongside the peacekeepers.

In 2015 the Malian government in the country’s southern capital Bamako signed a peace deal with the Tuareg, whose separatist rebellion was taken over by Al Qaeda.

Since then the militants have launched a series of insurgent attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast.

In November 2015, Al Murabitoun, Al Qaeda’s Malian affiliate, launched an attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako, killing 20 people.

In that siege, two armed men held 170 international guests captive for more than nine hours, before police stormed the building.