Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) personnel have been taking part in a joint operation in Mali, conducting building searches for illicit weaponry.
The unit, the ESTPLA-32 infantry platoon, in Mali as part of the French-led Operation Barkhane, aimed at countering terrorism and human trafficking, and joined French and Malian units for the first time in the action in the southeastern city of Gao.
"The involvement of the Estonian platoon in such an operation demonstrates that previous units have earned the allies' trust," said ESTPLA-32 commander Lt. Taavi Eesalu, according to BNS.
"Participating in an almost eight-hour operation as the first task in this hot and humid climate was exhausting for the unit, but previous training and experience allowed them to maintain their professionalism and successfully complete the task. The French have already invited us to take part in another similar operation, so we're doing our best to keep cooperation running smoothly in the future as well," Lt. Eesalu added.
Units from the three countries surrounded specific buildings to facilitate Malian personnel to search the buildings safely. The Estonians also secured the French unit's patrol in Gao.
The ESTPLA-32 infantry platoon headed to Mali at the beginning of August, taking over from ESTPLA-30, soon to return to Estonia. The EDF soldiers are tasked with ensuring the security of the French military base and its environs in Gao. The 50-strong EDF contingent is formed of soldiers of the all-professional Scouts Battalion, and also includes a support element consisting of logistics, communications and medical specialists.
Six EDF members were injured in a terrorist attack in Gao in July.
Operation Barkhane is a French-led anti-insurgent mission in the Sahel region. Its objective is to support governments in the region, namely the countries of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad, in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, as well as countering illegal migration and human trafficking.
Editor: Andrew Whyte