Personnel deployed in Mali alongside weapons and vehicles seized from suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants (Picture: MOD
Africa

UK troops seize suspected ISIS weapons and fighters in Mali

The troops are currently serving on a UN peacekeeping mission in the country.

Personnel deployed in Mali alongside weapons and vehicles seized from suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants (Picture: MOD

UK troops have detained three suspected ISIS fighters and seized weapons during operations in Mali.

During a 17-day operation, troops from the UK's Long Range Reconnaissance Group (LRRG) disrupted suspected extremists from groups believed to include Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).

This saw the soldiers seize weapons and secure villages in line with the UN's mandate to protect civilians.

During one encounter, troops from the Queen's Dragoon Guards came across three suspected ISGS militants – who ditched items as they fled the scene.

One of the men was detained and, during a search of the area, the troops seized two motorcycles, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher with rockets, radios and combat clothing.

Just days later, soldiers from the same regiment detained two armed males who attempted to flee after being approached.

The troops seized two AK47 rifles, ammunition, radios and other military equipment. 

All three detentions happened in an area in which ISGS are known to operate.

Watch: UK troops assist with investigation into civilian massacre in Mali in August.

Lieutenant Colonel Will Meddings, Commanding Officer of the UK Task Group, said the Long Range Reconnaissance Group is "not only a force that finds, but a force that acts".

"These detentions, along with the seizure of these suspected ISGS weapons and equipment, show that a robust approach to peacekeeping helps protect the Malian people," he said.

"Key to successes like this are putting out patrols for long periods that persist in place."

Both encounters happened under Operation Makara 2, a UN operation to stabilise areas around Asongo and deter threats.

The operation was ordered after dozens of villagers were massacred by suspected extremists in the area in August.

"By returning to the sites of August's cowardly attacks we built up a picture of how jihadist groups operate that has allowed us to take action like this against them," Lt Col Meddings said. 

After the first suspected ISGS militant was detained, a search of the area found two motorcycles, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher with rockets, radios and combat clothing (Picture: MOD).

Part of the peacekeepers' role in Mali involves approaching members of legal militias who have signed up to the Algiers Peace Agreement to make sure they are complying with its terms.

The UK Task Group provides the UN with a specialised long-range reconnaissance capability, conducting patrols in remote areas.

British soldiers gather intelligence and engage with the local population to help the UN mission understand and respond to threats and protect civilians.

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said the operations are "yet another example of how UK peacekeepers are making a real difference" in Mali. 

"Disrupting armed groups and taking valuable weapons and ammunition out of the hands of terrorists makes communities safer, while our presence in the region helps the UN mission to understand and counter threats to the local population."

Earlier this year, UK Armed Forces conducting a 'cordon and search' operation seized AK47s, ammunition, fuel and radios.