Category: World / January 17, 2013 1:45 PM EST
Roughly 160 Nigerian troops were set to depart to Mali on Thursday (July 17) in an effort to push Islamist rebels out of the country's north.
Nigeria has committed 900 troops in total and are expected to lead an African troop deployment in Mali to help dislodge an Islamist alliance of insurgents in Mali's north which western and regional powers fear could be used as a launch pad for international attacks.
The West-African country will be the first to join forces with France who has already poured hundreds of troops into Mali and carried out days of air strikes since Friday.
Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff, General Ihejirika addressed the first batch of troops before they left their base in the Kaduna camp.
"Remember discipline is the bedrock of our profession, so I expect you to maintain very high standard of discipline throughout. You must remain courageous at all times. Let me, on behalf of the Commander in Chief, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, assure you of our readiness back home in Nigeria, to support all your requests required for this task," Ihejirika told soldiers.
The Economic Community of West African States received a United Nations mandate for an African force in December but a southward advance by the Islamists this month and the subsequent French intervention made them deploy sooner that had been planned.