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France launches airstrikes against 'Islamic State'

September 19, 2014

A day after pledging to help the Iraqi military, France has struck "Islamic State" targets in Iraq. Paris says it won't expand its aerial campaign to the ground, nor across the border into Syria.

Kampfjet Frankreich Libyen
Image: picture-alliance/abaca

French President Francois Hollande confirmed on Friday that his country had begun its aerial campaign against IS in Iraq.

"This morning at 9:40, our Rafale planes carried out a first strike against a logistics depot of the terrorist organization Daesh in north-east Iraq. The objective was hit and completely destroyed," Hollande said in a statement, referring to IS by its abbreviation in Arabic.

"Other operations will follow in the coming days," he said.

Last week, Hollande visited Iraq, the first high-profile leader to do so since the new government was installed. At Baghdad's request, the French president agreed to provide air support.

However, unlike the United States, France has ruled out expanding its air support into Syria, where IS militants also control a large swathe of land. Despite the Syrian government's warnings, the Obama administration contends that it will conduct airstrikes against the jihadists if necessary, even without permission from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

France has also stressed that its military support will only be through airstrikes and reconnaissance flights, which it began on Monday.

The US-led offensive against the Islamist extremists has drawn support from 30 countries. The extent of military aid has varied across countries, with some such as Germany, agreeing only to provide military weapons and gear, in addition to humanitarian aid.

Paris, for its part, has already begun sending weapons to Kurdish forces fighting IS in northern Iraq.

On Thursday, US aircraft targeted an IS training camp for the first time, bombing buildings, troops and vehicles at the facility southeast of Mosul. According to local sources, at least 25 people died and a roughly similar number were injured.

kms/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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