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British troops arrive in Mali

March 28, 2013 at 9:13 AM

LONDON, March 28 (UPI) -- British forces in Mali won't be involved in combat operations but will help ensure national integrity through a support mission, the defense secretary said.

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said 21 British soldiers arrived in Bamako. They'll be joined later by additional personnel troops to complete a 40-man training unit.

Mali in January called for military support from former colonial power France to fight al-Qaida and foreign militants from the north of the country. Control over the north was lost following an early 2012 coup.

"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," Hammond said.

There are 22 nations contributing to a European training mission in Mali. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an African force to integrate into a U.N. mission that would replace French forces in Mali. A French combat and counter-terrorism role would be needed to support a U.N. mission, however.

The United Nations said Mali needs political reforms to correspond with security gains if it's to ensure stability and territorial integrity.

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