Jan 14 2013
A British plane loaded with military equipment and foreign troops bound for Mali has been delayed due to a technical fault.
Britain is supporting French efforts to halt an advance by rebels in the west African country and is sending two planes to be deployed where insurgents affiliated with al Qaida have been pushing south from their northern base against the Mali government.
The C-17 set off from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Sunday and was being loaded with military equipment at a French base. It was due to take off for Mali on Monday morning but has been delayed due to a "minor technical fault", a Ministry of Defence spokesman said. The problem is thought to be a short-term one and the plane is expected to be ready to depart later, he added.
The second plane was due to set off from RAF Brize Norton on Monday morning for France, ahead of continuing on to Mali. Downing Street has stressed that no UK troops will engage in combat operations there, but the transport planes will provide logistical assistance.
Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande have agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security given terrorist activity there.
Hundreds of French troops were deployed on Saturday after state forces lost control of the strategically important town of Konna to Islamists last Thursday. The rebels seized a swathe of northern Mali last spring.
Mr Hollande also sent French commandos into Somalia in a failed attempt to rescue hostage Denis Allex, who was kidnapped in July 2009. Two soldiers and Mr Allex are believed to have died in the bid. Paris insists the two operations are entirely separate. The country's terrorist threat level has been raised over fears of reprisals from extremists.
Mr Cameron has expressed "deep concern" about the rebel advances, saying: "I welcome the military assistance France has provided to the Malian government, at their request, to halt this advance. These developments show the need to make urgent progress in implementing UN Security Council resolutions on Mali, and ensure that military intervention is reinforced by an inclusive political process leading to elections and a return to full civilian rule."
News of the delay came shortly after Mr Cameron hailed the C17 as "our most advanced and capable transport plane". He told BBC Radio 4's Today that Britain would also share intelligence with France as part of its efforts to tackle the "dangerous Islamist regime".
Africa minister Mark Simmonds is expected to update MPs on the UK's role in the operation in an oral Commons statement later.