Africa

British Troops Complete Exercise Ahead Of UN Mission In Mali

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali is the UN's most dangerous operation in the world.

More than 200 British troops have been completing the final part of their training before deploying to Mali at the end of May.

The soldiers from 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment and 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards are deploying in support of Operation Newcombe, the UK's commitment to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The troops have been taking part in a simulated exercise at Thetford Army Training Area, Norfolk, designed to mimic a range of scenarios they could face while on the peacekeeping mission which is the UN's most dangerous operation in the world.

Private Daniel Cluer, of 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, is one of the soldiers heading to Mali on what will be his first deployment.

"So, I'm obviously scared about going out there and facing some of the things we've been told about," he said.

"But at the same time, I'm very excited, because it's going to be my first deployment. I'm going to be there with people that are my friends, I'm going to be making new memories.

"All in all, I think it'll be very good."

The West African country has been battling a brutal uprising since 2012 when rebel fighters first emerged.

The training has been preparing the troops for a number of scenarios they could face on the deployment, including medical assistance.

The geography of the country makes the instability particularly concerning as its neighbouring countries are often havens for extremist groups. 

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey MP outlined the importance of the mission for UK home security.

He told Forces News: "If it became a completely ungoverned space alongside Niger, Burkina Faso, arguably Chad, it's very reasonable to expect that that would be an opportunity that international terrorism organisations would take advantage of and that is literally on Europe's southern flank.

"Mali is only a six-hour flight from London or Paris, and I think people think of Sub-Saharan Africa as being a world away, but we simply can't accept the emergence of an ungoverned space within which violent extremism can flourish."

UK soldiers currently deployed on the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali recently completed a deep reconnaissance operation (Picture: British Army).

Due to the nature of the deployment, the soldiers have been mentored by organisations, including War Child and Save the Children, to better equip them if they come into contact with child soldiers or sexual assault victims.

Major Gavin Hudson, Second in Command of 2nd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, explained how the troops will provide reconnaissance expertise and intelligence during the deployment that will help protect local civilians.

"Our role is not purely military, there are complexities of human security that we've been preparing for," he said.

"Whether, this morning for example, the soldiers have been engaging with a situation where they encountered sexual violence and child soldiers.

"So we've had lots of experts come in and explain to us how best to deal with those and, more importantly, because we're not experts in this, which parts of the UN we can bring to bear to help resolve some of these security issues."