British troops arrive in Mali to join U.N. peacekeeping mission

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Hundreds of British troops have arrived in Mali to join the United Nations peacekeeping mission there, which is the world's deadliest, UK officials said on Thursday.

Britain already has three Chinook helicopters and 100 personnel in a logistics role in West Africa's Sahel region to support France's Barkhane operation against Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The UK mission to the United Nations said the latest deployment, which was first announced in July 2019, would "provide a highly specialised reconnaissance capability" to the 14,000-strong mission, known by its French acronym MINUSMA.

Most of the troops, who will be based in the northern city of Gao, have already arrived in Mali and the remainder will arrive by next Tuesday, it said in a statement.

"This deployment is a demonstration of our firm commitment to peacekeeping and the importance we place on improving security in the Sahel by protecting local communities," said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

MINUSMA was created in 2013 after France intervened to drive back jihadist fighters who had seized Mali's desert north and were advancing southward.

The mission has recorded 227 fatalities since then, making it the deadliest of the U.N.'s more than dozen peacekeeping missions.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)