France conducts first airstrikes on IS militant group in Iraq
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French fighter jets bombed a military logistics warehouse seized by the Islamic State group in northeast Iraq on Friday in the first French airstrikes against the jihadist militants.
Flying out of the United Arab Emirates, two French Rafale fighter jets fired four laser-guided bombs to destroy a weapons and fuel depot outside Iraq's second city of Mosul, which was seized by the militants in June, officials said.
French President François Hollande said the airstrikes were launched in support of Iraqi, US and Kurdish forces in the region with the objective of weakening the Islamic State “terrorist organisation and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities”.
“I want to congratulate our soldiers, our pilots in this case, who successfully fulfilled this mission,” Hollande told reporters at the Elysée presidential palace.
A Rafale jet hit the depot at 9:40am Paris time and completely destroyed it, according to a statement released earlier on Friday by the Elysée.
“Other operations will follow in the coming days,” the statement said.
Officials showed reporters some aerial images of the targets hit and said the strikes had targeted a former military installation seized by the group.
Hollande said France had taken precautions to prevent civilian casualties, and a French military official said the depot was located in a remote area.
News of the French strikes came a few hours after Washington said that US warplanes had struck an Islamic State training camp in Iraq, the first aerial US bombing not directly carried out in support of Iraqi or Kurdish forces battling the jihadists.
'No ground troops'
The French offensive came a day after Hollande told the French press that the country would conduct an air assault on the Islamic militants in support of Iraqi troops and at the request of leaders in Baghdad.
Hollande said on Thursday that France’s military involvement in an international campaign against the Islamic State group would be limited to air strikes in Iraq but would not extend to Syria and that no ground troops would be involved.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls would soon give France's parliament more information about the military strategy in Iraq, the Elysée statement added.
Some analysts said the French action was more symbolic than substantive – France’s military means in the region are limited – but it could give political cover for regional allies to join in while showing that the US is not acting alone.
For all his political troubles at home over a sluggish economy, Hollande has again showed a willingness to use force to fight Islamic militants undermining a beleaguered government. France launched an offensive in January 2013 to oust Islamist groups from Mali that were advancing on the capital, Bamako.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
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