French president in Mali visit

There was a hero's welcome for France's President Hollande when he arrived in Timbuktu. He was visiting the desert city in Mali, after its recapture from Islamic extremists.

Latest ITV News reports

'No reports of resistance' as French enter Kidal

French troops have taken control of the airport in the northern Malian town of Kidal, the last rebel stronghold in the north, the French army and a local official told Reuters.

Haminy Belco Maiga, president of the regional assembly of Kidal, said troops arrived last night:

They arrived late last night and they deployed in four planes and some helicopters.

Maiga said there were no immediate reports of resistance.

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Mali military welcomes UK's supporting role

by - Africa Correspondent

I have spoken to people in the Malian military today who said they believe the UK's training support role will make a big difference, and here's why:

Everyone has been diplomatic saying that this was a west African operation that the French merely played a part in, the reality is that those governments were slow to get to Mali and they were ineffective at times.

When the French came in less than three weeks ago, they stormed through the place and they have taken almost every major town.

One British official said last week that it would take up to two months for Timbuktu to fall but it fell just two days after his comments.

The French know they cannot stay here forever but there is a sense that some of the west African forces are ill-equipped to do this extraordinary job of containing the jihadist threat which the French believe not only affects the region but Europe too.

Arms and explosives found in retaken Malian towns

French-backed Malian troops uncovered arms and explosives left by Islamist fighters as they searched houses in Gao and Timbuktu.

Soldiers retook the two towns in northern Mali over the weekend after an 18-hour French offensive pushed the al Qaeda-allied militant back into their hideouts in the mountains and deserts.

In Gao, five suspected rebels and sympathisers were arrested, and weapons and counterfeit money were uncovered. Fleeing fighters torched a Timbuktu library holding priceless ancient manuscripts damaging many.

Read: What the UK is offering to the Mali military effort.

Labour: UK personnel 'not without risk' in Mali

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy has expressed concern at the way Britain's involvement in the mission in Mali has expanded.

Speaking in the Commons, he said:

The UK commitment to Mali has grown from lending the French two transport aircraft to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region.

UK trainers may be non-combat but that does not mean they are without risk

See also: Mali military effort: What the UK is offering

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Hammond: UK clear about the 'mission creep' risks

The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed that 40 UK personnel will train the Malian army and a further 200 will perform a similar task with forces in other west African countries.

In response to fears that Britain could get drawn into the Mali conflict, Mr Hammond said:

"It is not our intention to deploy combat troops.

"We are very clear about the risks of mission creep and we have defined very carefully the support we are willing and able to provide to the French and the Malian authorities".

Philip Hammond i
Philip Hammond insisted the UK's role in Mali is not a "combat one". Credit: HoC
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