LONDON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- British forces will train national forces in Mali but won't serve in a combat capacity, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said.
Mali in January requested military support from its former colonial power, France, to help stop the advance of foreign and Islamic rebels. Control over northern Mali was lost to militants, including al-Qaida allies, in early 2011 following a coup.
Hammond said Monday that 40 troops would deploy to Mali to take part in a European training missing. The mission is meant to train Malian forces in counter-terrorism and national defense capabilities.
Hammond said that only French and Czech forces were serving in a combat capacity in Mali.
"This mission is a further demonstration of our commitment to tackle violent extremism and the threat that it poses to our national interests," he said in a statement.
French troops and their supporters have taken control of key northern areas in Mali. There are growing concerns of reprisal attacks by members of the Malian military as well as spill-over threats that could endanger Mali's neighbors.
Hammond said the Defense Ministry was offering up to 200 training personnel to Mali's English-speaking neighbors.