The Director of Defence Information, Col. Mohammed Yerima, said during a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday that the President ordered the deployment of the troops for the crucial military mission.
Related News: Nigeria To Deploy Troop To Mali
He said that the first batch comprising 190 troops would leave the country for Mali on Wednesday (today) while “the remainder would be deployed later.”
Yerima said, “As you are aware, the degenerating crisis in the Republic of Mali compelled the decision of ECOWAS Heads of Government to intervene with a deployment of their military forces.
“Following this decision, and in line with Nigeria’s acclaimed peacekeeping roles and in the spirit of African brotherhood, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, has ordered the immediate deployment of Nigerian troops in Mali.
“The President approved the deployment of a battalion and in the next 24 hours, a company of the battalion will be deployed. Already, the Force Commander, Maj.Gen. S.U. Abdulkadir, is on the ground in Mali. Also, a technical team of Nigerian Army and Air Force is already in Mali to facilitate the eventual full deployment of fighter aircraft and support element.
Yerima stated that the President had to order immediate deployment of troops because of the activities of the Islamists, who invaded Gao and other cities in Mali.
He said that deployment of troops and military equipment for the Mali operations would have taken place in September, 2013.
The Director of Defence Information said that the Federal Government’s move was not due to pressure from France, but a reaction to the incursion of the Islamists into other areas in Mali.
Yerima was however, silent on the number of Air Force personnel that would be deployed for the ECOWAS mission in the embattled Francophone country.
He said that the Air Force would give the number of its personnel during a news briefing by the service later.
However, when one of our correspondents contacted the Director of Air Force Information, Air Commodore Yusuf Anas, he said that Air Force fighters and personnel would be deployed on Friday.
He said that the details would be supplied later.
It was gathered that the Nigerian Air Force component would be deployed from Kainji, Niger State.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has said all parties to the armed conflict in Mali must ensure civilians are protected.
In a statement by its Media Officer, Katy Pownall, on Monday, the international human rights body observed an escalation of the violence in the troubled West African nation.
It also noted that with French support, the Malian army launched a counter-offensive against armed Islamist groups on 11 January to prevent the capture of cities in the south of the country.
“There are real concerns that the fighting might lead to indiscriminate or other unlawful attacks in areas where members of armed Islamist groups and civilians are inter-mingled,” the statement quoted Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International’s Africa deputy director, as saying.
Rigaud added,”Forces involved in armed attacks should avoid indiscriminate shelling at all costs, and do their utmost to prevent civilian casualties. Today, the town of Diabaly, 400 -kilometre north of the capital, Bamako, was captured from the Malian army by Islamist armed groups.”
“In a marked intensification of the intervention, the French army bombed positions in the north, in Gao and Kidal, on January 13. At least six civilians were reportedly killed during the fighting for control of the town of Konna on January 11 and 12.
“The international community has a responsibility to prevent a fresh surge in abuses during this new phase of the conflict.
“Amnesty International is calling for the international community to support the immediate deployment of human rights monitors, with particular attention given to the use of child soldiers, children’s rights, gender, and protection of civilians.
“Reports have indicated that the Islamist groups have been using child soldiers, and that some of them have been wounded and possibly killed in the conflict.
“Amnesty International is urging French forces in Mali to give as much advance warning as possible to civilians, and calls on the armed groups to not put military targets near civilian objects. Armed forces are bound by international humanitarian law to take all necessary precautions to minimise harm to civilians.
The organisation is also calling on the Islamist armed groups not to harm any of the 13 hostages they are holding, among whom are six French and four Algerian nationals.
The Amnesty International statement also noted, “Since Islamist groups gained control of Mali’s north in April 2012, they have committed widespread and grave human rights abuses, introducing amputations, flogging, and stoning to death for those who oppose their interpretation of Islam.
“At the request of Mali’s government, France has deployed since January 11, some 550 soldiers in Mali under “Operation Serval.”
On December 20, 2012, The UN Security Council authorised an African-led force to “use all necessary measures” to take back northern Mali from “terrorist, extremist and armed groups.”