UK sends surveillance plane to support French in Mali

LONDON Fri Jan 25, 2013 4:17pm EST

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is sending a Sentinel manned surveillance aircraft to Africa to back a French and Malian government campaign against an Islamist rebel offensive in the west African country, the defense ministry said on Friday.

The aircraft is in addition to two C-17 military transport aircraft Britain has already supplied.

"We have now decided to deploy Sentinel, a surveillance capability that has proved its worth in Libya and on an ongoing basis for counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan," Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.

"We have also agreed to continue to make available a C-17 heavy-lift transport aircraft which has already provided important logistical support over recent days."

Britain has talked up the threat of militant Islamism from Africa after an attack by jihadists on an Algerian gas complex last week led to the deaths of at least 38 mostly foreign hostages. The operation is believed to have been conceived in Mali.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Robert Woodward)