German personnel to join EU training mission in Mali

Berlin plans to send around 40 military personnel to Mali as part of a European mission to provide military training to local forces, Germany's defence minister announced Saturday.

Germany had not decided the exact number yet but would send "around 40" to begin training in Mali "in late March, early April", Thomas de Maiziere said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

As Germany's army is under control of the parliament, the Bundestag must first approve the deployment.

De Maiziere told the German press on Thursday he was confident the move would be approved by early March.

The Germans would lend their support to the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM), approved by European ministers on January 17 to help train Malian combat units and restructure the country's weak army.

EUTM will comprise around 450 European military personnel, including 250 trainers, and will run in conjunction with the African regional force AFISMA, whose nearly 8,000 troops are slowly deploying to Mali.

Germany has also sent two Transall military transport aircraft to Mali, and has a third on standby.

Austria, meanwhile, will send a team of around 10 military medical staff to Bamako, a spokesman for Austria's defence minister said Saturday.

Asked by Malian authorities to help thwart an advance by Islamist insurgents on the southern capital Bamako, former colonial power France launched its military intervention in Mali on January 11.