11:53 GMT27 February 2020
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    Last month, the UK sent three Royal Air Force helicopters and about 100 troops to Mali to help French forces combat jihadists still active in the region.

    The Sun has cited a Whitehall source as saying that British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson was outraged after Paris said that London will have to pay £2 million ($2.5 million) so that the UK military can fly spare parts and kits to the Mali mission on French transport aircraft.

    "We could not believe it. They begged for help, we give it, and then they want to charge us for keeping the mission running.  The French can't fight their own wars — now they won't even help out those who help them. It sent Williamson livid — he threatened to ground the whole fleet," the source stressed.

    READ MORE: Suspected Jihadists Kill More Than 40 Tuaregs in Mali — Reports

    For its part, the UK Defense Ministry, in a statement on Saturday, pledged to "continue to strengthen our deep defense relationship with France."

    The remarks came after three Royal Air Force (RAF) Chinook helicopters and almost 100 British troops were sent to Mali last month to add to France's anti-jihadi effort there.

    Currently, French servicemen are present in Mali as part of the ongoing anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane, which started in 2014.

    READ MORE: Canadian General: Mali Mission 'Far Messier' Than Standard Peacekeeping Missions

    In the past few years, Mali has suffered from a surge in violence as jihadist groups continue to exploit rebels from nomadic Tuareg tribes so as to gain control over the northern part of the country, which remains mostly lawless due to separatist activities.

    In 2012, a Tuareg insurgency against the government triggered France, Mali's former colonizer, to intervene at the request of the country's authorities.

    READ MORE: Mali Crisis: French Peacekeepers Trapped in Inter-Ethnic Conflicts

    France's Operation Serval forced most of the rebels out; however, jihadists are still active in the northern territories, which are out of the control of the Malian government or French and UN forces.

    The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has about 12,000 peacekeepers and was established by a UN Security Council resolution on April 25, 2013, alongside France's Operation Serval that ended later that year.

    The UN mission's aim is to stabilize the country and protect civilians from jihadi activity in the region.


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