File photo of a British Army vehicle in Mali
File photo of a British Army Jackal vehicle in Mali (Picture: MOD).

Commanding officer reveals how British troops killed armed fighters in Mali

File photo of a British Army vehicle in Mali
File photo of a British Army Jackal vehicle in Mali (Picture: MOD).

A British Army commanding officer deployed to Mali has revealed how his troops killed two armed fighters after being fired at from about 10 metres away.

Lieutenant Colonel Will Meddings, Commander of the UN's MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) Long Range Recce Group and 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, explained on Twitter how last Wednesday's incident happened.

It was the first time British troops had come under fire since combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014.

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Lt Col Meddings said the peacekeepers were patrolling "a huge stretch of rarely-visited terrain" in the east of the west Africa country.

The two armed fighters were travelling on a motorcyle and "quickly fled" after seeing the UK troops before heading into scrubland on foot, Lt Col Medding said.

Soldiers from C Squadron 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards began clearing through the area when "suddenly the two armed men opened fire from about 10m". 

The commanding officer said the soldiers then "fired and manoeuvred back to cover", allowing "their vehicles, held back in support to engage".

He tweeted: "While they started with GPMG [general-purpose machine gun], the sustained fire coming from the scrub meant they soon shifted to .50 HMG [heavy machine gun] and 40mm grenade launcher.

"It's exactly what I'd expect any soldier to do if rounds were striking the armour of their vehicle or landing around their comrades –  which they were that day."

The firefight was "over quickly", said Lt Col Meddings, who warned: "Our intention was to question and detain.

"But I've always been clear – if you engage British peacekeepers you should expect your fire to be returned. With interest."

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

The fighters were members of a 'terrorist armed group', according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD), and there were no UK or UN casualties. 

Lt Col Medding said he was "proud" of how the soldiers from 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards acted and how the rest of the Long Range Recce Group supported them after the battle.

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 peacekeeping mission.

Speaking last week about the incident, 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."

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