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French aircraft carrier to move to Gulf 'in a few days', says Hollande

AFP / ECPAD |French President François Hollande (C) and French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (3rd L) arrive on France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier on December 4, 2015

The French aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle is to move into the Persian Gulf in a “few days” to take over a command role in air strikes against the Islamic State group, French President François Hollande said on Friday as he visited the ship.

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The Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, is currently located in the eastern Mediterranean, where it has been taking part in airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) group since November 24.

"In a few days, you will join a new deployment area, taking over command responsibilities from our allies in the coalition," Hollande said in a speech to the aircraft carrier’s crew.

The head of the French military, Pierre de Villiers, indicated in November that the Charles de Gaulle would relieve a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf as part of its mission.

The French president, flanked by warplanes in one of the ship’s maintenance hangars, told the crew they would “continue the fight against terrorism in another way” and that their mission would “continue until March”.

‘Gratitude of the nation’

Hollande declared “war” on the IS group after it claimed responsibility for the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, and ordered the French military to step up its bombing campaign against the jihadist organisation in Iraq and Syria.

The Charles de Gaulle was deployed to the eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the attacks. The largest western European warship currently in commission, the aircraft carrier has 26 fighter jets, more than doubling France's strike capacity in the region.

"France can be proud to have an aircraft carrier like Charles de Gaulle,” Hollande said in his speech to the crew. "Flexibility, speed, availability: that is the strength of the French army and this is what I ask of you."

“I have confidence in you and in your leaders, I express the gratitude of the nation for what you do and what you will do,” added the French president.

Hollande later oversaw the launch of several aircraft departing on missions from the command post of the ship’s flight deck, before departing the Charles de Gaulle by helicopter.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

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