File photo of a UK soldier in Mali (Picture: MOD).

British troops kill armed fighters in Mali after coming under fire for first time since 2014

Troops from the UK Task Group returned fire after coming under attack from what was described as an armed terrorist group.

File photo of a UK soldier in Mali (Picture: MOD).

British forces deployed to Mali have killed two armed fighters after being engaged while on patrol – the first time UK troops have come under fire since combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014.

The fighters were members of a 'terrorist armed group', according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The incident happened on Wednesday in the east of the west African country.

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The British soldiers are from the UK Task Group in Mali, part of the United Nations' MINUSMA  (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) peacekeeping mission.

There were no UK or UN casualties, the MOD said.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: "This is an important reminder that as we broaden the focus of Defence to State based threats in new domains like cyber and space, we still rely on our Armed Forces to apply lethal forces in close contact with our enemies."

"No matter how much technology we invest in, it all comes to naught without the bravery and determination of our Armed Forces."

The British soldiers also found a cache of weapons, including an AK47, a machine gun, 100 rounds of ammunition and a radio, following a search of the area.

File photo of British troops in Mali on UN peacekeeping mission DATE ADDED 211021 CREDIT MOD
Currently, 300 British personnel are deployed as part of the MINUSMA mission (Picture: MOD).

A UN spokesperson said: "UN peacekeepers from the British contingent of MINUSMA (LRRG- Long Range Recce Group) travelling from Gao to Ménaka on a security patrol repelled an attack by two armed individuals.

"The UN peacekeepers vigorously retaliated, neutralizing the two individuals."

Mali is one of the world's poorest and most unstable countries.

Forming part of the fragile Sahel region – Mali has come under continuous threat from poverty, climate change and extremism.

It is thought extremists including the Islamic State of the Greater Sahel (ISGS) are causing severe instability in Mali and across the Sahel region. 

UK troops are deployed on Operation MAKARA 3 – aimed at stabilising population areas around Menaka, eastern Mali, and to deter or disrupt terrorist groups, the MOD said.

Currently, 300 British personnel are deployed as part of the MINUSMA mission.

Last month, it was announced UK soldiers had been assisting with a human rights investigation into a massacre of civilians in the south-east of Mali