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WABA
01-29-2013, 12:58 AM
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Telegraph.co.uk
(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/)


Tuesday 29 January 2013



British troops to join Mali conflict

Britain is expected to confirm today that scores of troops will be sent to Mali to form part of a European Union training mission to support the Malian army, as French-led forces marched unopposed into Mali's ancient trading city of Timbuktu.


http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02464/Timbuktu-troops-1_2464609c.jpg The troops rolled in unopposed with the crowd welcoming them as liberators Photo: AFP






By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi

11:32PM GMT 28 Jan 2013



David Cameron told MPs last week that Britain's contribution to the EU force, which could number 500 personnel, would be in the "tens not hundreds", with France providing most of the troops. However, speculation has grown that the UK contribution could be larger, because Britain would contribute troops to protect officers conducting the training. Last night No 10 refused to comment on numbers, saying "discussions are ongoing".

Britain has already contributed two transport planes and a high-altitude surveillance aircraft to assist the French mission in Mali, where François Hollande, the French president, has deployed close to 3,000 of his country's soldiers.


As Mr Cameron told Mr Hollande that Britain was "keen" to provide further military assistance to France, Islamists linked to al-Qaeda burned thousands of Timbuktu's rarest treasures and fled into the desert to evade the advancing French troops,


Armed convoys rolled into the city's streets with barely a shot fired as thousands cheered "Mali, Mali, Mali" and welcomed the French troops as liberators. Many waved the French flag.


Col Thierry Burkhard, the chief military spokesman in Paris, said there had been no combat with the Islamists, but that French forces did not yet have complete control of the city.

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The Islamists seized Timbuktu last April, imposing a strict interpretation of sharia on its people. Women were forced to wear veils, while music, dancing and smoking were banned. Some people were subjected to floggings.

The celebrations that greeted the arrival of the French troops were tempered by the discovery that the extremists had destroyed thousands of rare texts and manuscripts kept in the city, a Unesco world heritage site.
Timbuktu's mayor confirmed that the Islamists had set fire to a world-renowned research centre as they fled.

The Ahmed Baba Institute, opened in 2009, housed more than 20,000 priceless letters, books, religious manuscripts and early scientific documents dating from the 14th century.
Some may have been saved by academics as the Islamists arrived, but there were fears that a significant portion of the collection had been lost.

This was "cultural vandalism", one researcher said, comparable to the destruction of the statues of Buddha at Bamiyam in Afghanistan, dynamited by the Taliban in 2001.


"This is a devastating loss," said Mauro Nobili of the Timbouctou

Manuscripts Project at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. "It is a huge fragment of the history not just of Timbuktu, but of all of north and west Africa, and its loss would be without precedent. There were more than 20,000 documents, most of them completely uncharted. Nobody had even begun to study their content."

Of the wider conflict, Mr Hollande said "we are winning the battle", but called on African countries to send reinforcements quickly to secure the gains already made and to help liberate northern Mali, which was "still under terrorist control".

Among the French forces in Mali are paratroopers from the Foreign Legion, who early yesterday parachuted behind the enemy north of Timbuktu to support ground troops arriving from the south.

By mid-morning, the French and the Malian army had captured Timbuktu's airport, and later yesterday were patrolling all major routes into the city.

The mission to take full control of Timbuktu began three hours before sunset. Two other major towns in northern Mali that were until recently in the hands of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies, Gao and Kidal, were also now empty of Islamist fighters, residents and Malian security sources said. Tuareg rebels, who have indicated they are ready to negotiate with Mali's government, were reported to be in control of Kidal.
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said that Western intervention in Mali should follow the model of the recent successful action in Somalia.

"Think of the progress which we have made in Somalia in the last year – not by deploying Western armies, but by ensuring there is legitimate government, by funding and winning UN approval for African forces to do military work on the ground," he said.

The US military is planning to set up a base for drones in northwest Africa to bolster surveillance of al-Qaeda in the region, according to reports.

The base for the robotic, unmanned aircraft would likely be located in Niger, on the eastern border of Mali, where French forces are currently waging a campaign against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an official told the New York Times.

Such an airfield would allow for better intelligence gathering by unarmed drones on the movement of AQIM and other militants, which Washington considers a growing threat.

If the plan is approved, up to 300 US military service members and contractors could be sent to the base to operate the drone aircraft.

New Ron
01-29-2013, 02:14 AM
I dont think thats a good idea, as the Brits dont know this territory and will become simply targets of hostage takings. Thier mission is good and they helping the French is commendable, not to mention helping Europe be safe by training Malians, but just as Sierra Leone WAS British territory before which made it easier for the Brits to go in and out fast, the French know Mali better and should take care to do what needs to be done.

The UK has done enough in Afghanistan and Iraq, they need a break for goodness sakes, let the French who didnt do half as much do their part now.

However I will support the UK.

Knaur
01-29-2013, 05:46 AM
Its just a training mission, Estonia is also sending trainers for ex.

Given the way Algerians do hostage rescue, forces in the region could definitely do with some training.

UK also has personnel deployed already, they are the ones operating the Sentinel aircraft :smile:

W/E we say about the UK, they have never been found wanting in combat, from Trafalgar to Tora Bora!