RAF Chinook helicopters have been supporting French troops in Mali since 2018 (Picture: RAF).
Gunmen have reportedly attacked and briefly seized an army base in central Mali, killing at least 16 Malian soldiers and destroying five vehicles.
Groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State are believed to be using central and northern Mali as a base for a growing number of attacks across the region, especially on neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, despite the presence of 4,500 French troops.
According to the UN, violence in the West African country has worsened almost every year since 2012, when Islamists and Tuareg rebels captured the north and advanced towards the capital, Bamako.
A French-led intervention pushed them back the following year.
The UK has been providing French troops with technical support in Mali since July 2018, when the British Government authorised the deployment of three RAF Chinook helicopters and 90 military personnel to help contain Islamist insurgents.
The deployment was announced the previous January when Prime Minister Theresa May met French President Emmanuel Macron.