Africa

UK Troops Seize Arms Cache Belonging To IS-Affiliated Group In Mali

The operation took place in a sandstorm, reducing visibility to 30m, and in over 50°C heat with soldiers carrying up to 45kg of equipment. 

British personnel have seized an arms cache belonging to a group affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in Mali.

After receiving intelligence about violent extremists operating in a village close to the border with Niger, the British troops launched the "cordon and search" operation in early May.

The extremists from the Daesh-affiliated group Islamic State in the Greater Sahel (ISGS) had been intimidating local communities, extorting money and assaulting people who refused to comply with their demands.

This allowed the British troops, deployed to Mali as part of the UN's peacekeeping mission, to respond in order to protect the local communities under the UN's peacekeeping mandate.

About 100 soldiers from the Light Dragoons and Royal Anglian Regiment, supported by a specialist Royal Engineer search team, were cleared by UN HQ to move into the village and search several buildings of interest.

A hidden cache of terrorist material was found, including AK47 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, camouflage clothing, radios, mobile phones and hundreds of litres of fuel. 

A cell of suspected fighters fled by swimming across the River Niger before the peacekeepers arrived.

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons, said the operation is a "tangible example of how UK soldiers, as part of the UN Force, are making a real difference to protect the people of Mali".

As a result of the operation, AK47 rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, camouflage clothing, radios, mobile phones and hundreds of litres of fuel were seized (Picture: MOD).

"Using intelligence gathered during our patrols, we focused on where terrorist groups were intimidating local people and were then able to find and seize the weapons and supplies," he said.

He added that this not only disrupted the extremists' influence on local communities, but "will help interrupt further extremist activity".

The weapons and intelligence collected were passed to the UN Mine Action Service, UN Police, and Malian authorities.

The operation is the first targeted "cordon and search" operation, acting on intelligence proactively gathered, to be carried out by UN forces in Mali.

The 300-strong UK Task Group deployed to Mali in December 2020 to support the UN mission, which is made up of more than 13,000 peacekeepers from 56 different countries.

The deployment looks to support peace efforts, encourage security sector reform, protect civilians and promote human rights.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the operation demonstrated how UK personnel "have made a considerable contribution" during their first six months in Mali.

"Removing the weapons and disrupting the terrorist operation will make a real difference to the local community and importantly the intelligence collected will help develop our understanding and help to prevent the threat from armed groups in the future," he said.

Cover image: Personnel in Mali conducting an operation that seized a weapons cache from an IS-affiliated group in the country (Picture: MOD).