The total number of the Nigerian contingent to the current African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) is now 500 with others set to join in the ongoing war against the Islamist rebels in the war-torn country.
Although the impression earlier created was that over 900 troops had been dispatched, yesterday, the Defence spokesman, Col Yerima Mohammed, in a statement he issued and signed, showed that only 500 troops had gone so far.
According to him, "Currently, there is a company strength of 138 men (all ranks) stationed in the city of Banamba, Mali. The AFISMA Headquarters in Bamako is manned by 17 Nigerian personnel. 24 personnel are currently stationed at the transit camp. A Signal Squadron of 61 personnel is currently deployed. The Nigerian Air Force, which is stationed in Niamey, Niger Republic, has a total strength of 300 personnel.
"The remaining troops and equipment will be deployed in due course. Also expected for deployment is a contingent of 140 Nigeria Police personnel which is already on standby. At present, the Nigerian Armed Forces has deployed over 500 officers and men to the AFISMA operation."
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Senate had approved 1,200 troops for the operation and President Goodluck Jonathan had ordered the deployment of a battalion to Mali, but the military authorities claimed that the deployment of the troops had to be gradual since it was not a military operation that involved only Nigeria, but the whole of the sub-region's military.