Denmark plans to back anti-jihadist force in Sahel

Denmark announced Thursday that it plans to send materiel and some troops to Africa to help support the French operation combatting jihadist groups in the Sahel.

Denmark plans to back anti-jihadist force in Sahel
Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The government's plans, which must be approved by parliament, include sending two transport helicopters and 70 soldiers for a one-year period to the region starting at the end of this year.

“It is crucial for the security of Denmark and Europe that we contribute to the stability in the region. The terrorist groups in the Sahel represent a threat to our security,” Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said in a statement.

Also the government with its restrictive migration policy “hopes at the same time to stem the influx of refugees” to Europe, added Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

A NATO member, Denmark contributed to previous anti-jihadist operations in Mali.

Mali has been struggling to return to stability after Al-Qaeda-linked extremists took control of the north in early 2012, prompting a military intervention by France which routed them.

But large stretches of the landlocked African state remain out of government control.

Since 2014 France has maintained the so-called Barkhane force of 4,500 troops to fight the jihadist groups in Mali and the Sahel region.

Most of the violence is centred in Mali's central and southern regions but it has also spread across its borders, affecting neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

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Denmark to deploy special forces to Mali in 2022

Denmark plans to deploy about 100 special forces to Mali early next year to boost the elite anti-jihadist European task force Takuba headed by France, the government announced Thursday.

Denmark to deploy special forces to Mali in 2022
A UN aircraft about to depart Denmark for Mali in 2019. File photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

“The terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda remainssignificant,” the foreign and defence ministries said in a joint statement.

“They want to create a hub in West Africa for their extremist regime… and we cannot allow that to happen,” they added.

The Danish contingent, which apart from the special forces will also include top level military officers and surgeons, will be deployed at the beginning of 2022, the ministries said.

Copenhagen also plans to send a military transport plane to assist the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

The French-led Takuba multinational force, launched in March 2020, has already seen Czech, Swedish and Estonian troops deployed in the region but France has struggled to obtain significant support from its larger EU partners.