France supports US with first air strikes on Isis depot in Iraq

Two Rafale fighter-bombers, accompanied by two support aircraft, attacked an Isis ammunition depot near Mosul

Click to follow
The Independent Online

France has becoame the second Western country after the US to attack Isis militants in Iraq.

Two Rafale fighter-bombers, accompanied by two support aircraft, attacked an Isis ammunition depot near Mosul in north-eastern Iraq.

President François Hollande announced that the target had been “completely destroyed”. “Other operations will follow in the coming days with the same goal – to weaken this terrorist organisation and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities,” Mr Hollande said. 

At a press conference on Thursday, the President announced French strikes in support of US air-raids on northern Iraq would begin shortly. He said France had been invited to provide military support by the Iraqi government. There was no question of the French raids extending over the border into Isis-held territory in Syria, he said.

 

The Rafale fighter-bombers, flying from a French base in the United Arab Emirates, fired four laser-guided bombs at a munitions and fuel depot, French officials said. An Iraqi military spokesman, Qassim al-Moussawi, claimed that dozens of Isis fighters were killed in the raid near the town of Zumar.

Both Australia and Canada have expressed willingness to join the US air strikes on Isis-held territory in Iraq. The British government is still considering its position.

France’s participation is given added political significance by the fact that a previous French President, Jacques Chirac, opposed the US-British invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003. Mr Hollande, who has proved more decisive in foreign policy than domestic policy, argues that the present situation is quite different.

39-anbar-lions-afp.jpg
The jihadi flag of the Islamic State (Isis) (AFP)

He told Thursday’s press conference that Isis was a “new and dangerous phenomenon” – a lavishly funded terrorist organisation which claimed to act like a sovereign state. He insisted, however, that France – unlike the US – saw no legal or strategic justification for extending the western air raids over the border into Syria.

The French air strike coincided with a visit by the head of the US military, General. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to his French counterpart, General Pierre de Villiers.

The two men were visiting the American military cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy.

“The French were our very first ally and they are there again for us,” General Dempsey said. “It just reminds me why these relationships really matter.”

The US has made 176 raids in Iraq since 8 August. On Wednesday, it attacked a training camp south-east of Mosul and an ammunition stockpile south-east of Baghdad.

Comments