Radical islamists attacked three military bases in Africa on Monday, including one in the city of Gao, Mali, where Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) troops are situated. There were no casualties in any of the three early-morning attacks.
"This morning (Monday - ed.), around 5.30 a.m. local time, a rocket attack was directed at the Gao military base in Mali. It was a complex offensivee - two other military bases were attacked concurrently," said Maj. Argo Sibul of the EDF contingent in Mali.
Maj. Sibul told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) on Monday evening: "The Estonian platoon performed their service duties. They were the base's defensive unit at the time. They were the first to react to the incident. They were also the closest to it. We are prepared for these situations, and this was no surprise to us. I can confirm that both Estonian and allied personnel are all fine - there were no casualties in any of the attacks."
Estonia is contributing to the French counter-insurgency Operation Barkhane, principally with an infantry platoon. In November 2019, Estonia increased its Operation Barkhane troop deployment to 95 soldiers.
The operation aims to support the fight against Islamic extremismin the five countries of the Sahel region (Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, as well as Mali itself). The operation also aims to prevent illegal immigration and human trafficking in Europe.
Estonia is also contributing to Takuba, a special forces unit in Mali, which provides advice, assistance and training in the organization of operations within the Malian Armed Forces.
While Operation Barkhane is French-led, the EU as a whole also has a presence in Mali, and the rationale according to defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) is that EDF personnel being involved in protecting the EU's southern borders comes in return for NATO involvement in defending the union's eastern frontier, via ground troops at Tapa and air policing at Ämari.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste