On January 28th, 2013 roughly 200 men boarded three C-160s and two C-130s located at an airfield just outside of the city Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast. Their mission is to conduct a static line combat parachute jump into the North of Timbuktu in order to deny the Islamists an escape route into the Northern deserts.
The men were all part of the 11th Parachute Brigade of the French Army, an airborne unit with roughly 8,500 paratroopers. The assault package consisted of a company-plus element from the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment – 2e Régiment étranger de parachutistes or simply 2e REP. The 2e REP is the only French Foreign Legion unit in the 11th Parachute Brigade as well as the only airborne unit in the Legion. The assault force was also supplemented by a company element from the 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment (17e Régiment de Génie Parachutiste/17e RGP) also part of the 11th Parachute Brigade.
NOTE: With many of the news reports in French, I have had to use online translators to get you the most accurate information. There have been secondary reports that the 17e RGP actually jumped into Timbuktu airport, separate from the Legionnaires, in order to clear obstacles prohibiting the larger ground forces from air landing. I’ll update accordingly as I get more information.
The following footage was taken from an EADS Harfang surveillance drone operated by the French Air Force.