Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) infantry platoon ESTPLA-32, which arrived at the military base in Gao, Mali last week, took over responsibility for the mission from ESTPLA-30, the platoon that had served in Mali since April.
According to Maj. Raido Jõgi, commander of the contingent that entered service in Operation Barkhane, their rotation to Mali and takeover of responsibilities went smoothly thanks to the previous contingent and familiar logistics experts.
"Previous rotations have done good work, and according to the commanders of Operation Barkhane as well as the Bellface battlegroup, the Estonians' courage and professionalism have set the bar high," Jõgi said. "I expect our unit to at least maintain that same level with [the previous units]."
The service of ESTPLA-32 and members of a support element in Mali began with an acclimatization period, during which ESTPLA-30 introduced the incoming platoon to the rules, work, task specifics of and life in general on the base. After a few days of adjusting to conditions and unpacking, a gradual handover of responsibilities to the new platoon began.
As of Thursday, ESTPLA-32 will begin conducting patrols in the city of Gao and surrounding regions, manning entrances and observation posts at the base as well as carrying out rapid response tasks.
Following equipment maintenance, ESTPLA-30 and its support element will begin preparing for their return to Estonia.
Operation Barkhane is a French-led anti-insurgent mission in Africa's Sahel region. The operation's objective is to support the governments of the Sahel region countries of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in their fight against Islamic terrorists, as well as prevent illegal migration and human trafficking. The UK is also supporting the operation with transport helicopters, and Spain with an air force component.
In addition to patrols, Estonians serving on the French Army-led Operation Barkhane are tasked with ensuring the security of the base as well as fulfilling rapid response tasks.
Editor: Aili Vahtla