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.

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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.

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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

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

MP fears UK will get drawn into Mali conflict

Conservative MP John Baron has expressed his fears that the UK could be drawn into an "ever deepening conflict" in Mali and the wider region.

He said Afghanistan illustrated the danger of being "sucked into larger deployments, the mission itself changed".

He asked the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to clarify the exact role of British troops.

Conservative MP John Baron had requested an Urgent Question on Mali Credit: HoC

In response, Mr Hammond said: "The UK has a clear interest in the stability of Mali and ensuring that its territory does not become an ungoverned space.".

"The role of British troops is clearly not a combat role and will not extend as we envisage at the moment to a force protection role".

"We are looking for force protection arrangements to be put in place probably by the French".

No forces to be deployed without 'adequate protection'

The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said that the role of British troops in the Mali effort will not be a combat one and neither will it involve force protection in Mali.

He added:

We will not allow any UK personnel to be deployed on any mission until we are satisfied that adequate force protection arrangements are in place.

– Defence Secretary Philip Hammond
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