WORLD NEWS TOMORROW – UK – Britain has thrown its support behind French efforts to halt an advance by al-Qaeda affiliated rebels in Mali.The C-17 was the first of two planes to be deployed to the west African country where insurgents had been pushing south from their northern base against the Mali government.
Downing Street has stressed no UK troops would engage in combat operations in Mali, but the transport planes would provide logistical assistance.Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande have agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security.
Ministry of Defence sources said the C-17 flew from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Sunday and was on Sunday night being loaded with military equipment at a French base.
It was due to take off for Mali later on Monday morning.
RAF drones and spy planes have also been put on standy, sources told The Times, who also suggested that a small team of British military instructors would be sent to Mali’s capital, Bamako, later this month.Mark Simmonds, a Foreign Office minister, hinted that British troops would eventually be sent to Mali to train an army capable of holding off al-Qaeda.
“We may well, through a European Union mechanism, provide training and support for the Malian army to give them strength to bring back the integrity of the Malian country in totality,” he said.France carried out multiple air strikes in northern Mali on Sunday and halted the advance towards the capital Bamako of fighters linked to al-Qaeda.
Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, said on Sunday night that French and Malian troops had blocked rebel advances towards the south and that French air forces were now focused on attacking in the north. “Blocking the terrorists, is done,” he said, adding that troops had “started taking care of the rear bases of the terrorists”, notably the town of Gao.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defence minister, said: “There was a spectacular acceleration of these [jihadi] groups since Thursday. If no one intervened, Bamako would have fallen two or three days later. France is at war against terrorism.”The French launched their first air strikes alongside the Malian army on Friday, in an attempt to push back advancing rebels, described by one Elysée source as “well equipped, well armed and well trained”.
Islamists based in northern Mali vowed on Monday morning to avenge the assault on French soil.”France has attacked Islam. We will strike at the heart of France,” said Abou Dardar, a leader of Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, an offshoot of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), speaking to AFP by telephone.