Contingent BKN-08 of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), serving in the international military operation in Mali called Operation Barkhane, handed over its duties to a new unit at a ceremony on Sunday morning.
"Our personnel has demonstrated competence, commitment, resilience and ability to engage in efficient cooperation with allied units during this mission," Maj. Vjatseslav Senin, commander of the Estonian contingent, said in his speech, and thanked for the contingent for its work.
Senin expressed hope that the new contingent would be able to rapidly acclimatize and adapt to its new environment, adding that the unit has some difficult yet interesting work and numerous new challenges ahead of it. Senin will continue performing his duties as elder of the Estonian contingent.
"You are a testament to Estonian and French troops' ability to serve side by side, in Mali and elsewhere, in pursuit of a shared objective to guarantee at a distance the security of our fellow citizens and Europe by resolutely suppressing armed terrorist units in the region as well as all others working against our shared values," commander of the anti-insurgency operation Barkhane, Col. Christophe Follet, said, and commended cooperation between Estonian and French troops.
"I am certain that the new unit, too, will be able to face all challenges ahead in the coming weeks and months. I have full confidence in you," he said.
The core of the new unit in Mali consists of the infantry group BKN-09 and the contingent also includes a national support element. Cooperation with allied units as well as the activities of the Estonian contingent are supported and coordinated by the elder of the contingent.
The Estonian troops are stationed at a French base in the city of Gao on the banks of the Niger River, where over 1,500 soldiers from various countries are serving. The tasks of the Estonian unit are patrolling in their area of responsibility, base protection and manning of a rapid response unit. The new Estonian unit will continue its service until the end of August, when a rotation of the Estonian contingent will take place.
Operation Barkhane is a French-led anti-insurgent mission in the Sahel region. The objective of Barkhane is to support the governments of the Sahel region countries Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad in their fight against Islamic terrorists. It is aimed at creating stability in the region and controlling problems affecting Europe, such as terrorism and illegal immigration. By having a unit deployed to the French-led anti-terrorist operation, Estonia confirms that it is prepared to contribute to ensuring security namely in places where major security threats for Europe originate.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste