The Federal Government has increased the number of Nigerian troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) to a total of 724, consisting of 300 Air Force (NAF) and 424 Army personnel.
Also deployed are heavy weapons, ammunition, vehicles and equipment, in addition to NAF assets in the operation including two Alpha jets and one MI35 based in Niamey, Niger Republic, which will provide interdiction and close air support to ground troops.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Defence Headquarters, Col Mohammed Yerima, said this Wednesday in a statement made available to THISDAY.
Yerima said the Nigerian contingent was last week visited by some community leaders in Mali who commended their efforts to restore peace and stability in the war-thorn country.
He said the community leaders expressed gratitude to Nigerian troops by donating cows to them.
"To underscore their appreciation and in the spirit of hospitality which the Malian people are known for, the community leaders donated cows and some food items during their visits. Both visits were given wide coverage by the Malian press," he said.
"The visibly delighted community leaders in their different speeches expressed their heartfelt gratitude and appreciation on behalf of their communities and indeed the Malian people on the timely presence of the Nigerian troops and other friendly militaries that are on ground to bring peace and stability to Mali," he added.
The Defence spokesman listed some of the visitors to include that by the Civil Administrator and Governor of Koulukoro, Mali, Mr Allayey Tessouguend accompanied by Mayor of Banamba, Mr Boubakar Bagayoko with some Malian senior military officers on February 7, 2013.
The contingent was also visited by the Mayor of Touba town, Mallam Amara Nega Sylla who was accompanied by the Sub-Prefect of Touba town, Mr Abdulahi Dicko and the Mayor of Banamba, Boubakar Bagayoko along with several Malian military and gendarmerie officers on February 11, 2013.