British troops have arrived in Mali as part of an EU mission to train local forces fighting Islamist insurgents, the Ministry of Defence in London announced Wednesday.
The team of 40 will help develop the Malian armed forces’ infantry and artillery skills, among about 500 troops from 22 European Union countries.
British ministers have stressed they will not join French troops in fighting back the Al-Qaeda-linked extremists who seized control in northern Mali.
Twenty-one members of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment arrived in Bamako on Tuesday, and they will be joined later by members of the 45 Commando Royal Marines and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery units.
“Through this mission we will support the Malian government to counter the violent insurgency that has not only disrupted their country, but which also poses a clear threat to our national interests here in the UK,” Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said.
“British support to the mission in Mali—including assistance with training, logistics and surveillance—highlights the impressive flexibility of our armed forces.
“British troops will not deploy in a combat role but, through training the Malian armed forces, we can assist in restoring order and denying terrorists a safe haven in the country.”
The Bamako-headquartered mission is led by France’s Brigadier General Francois Lecointre.
Expected to last around 15 months, the training will take place in Koulikoro, 60 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of the capital.