LONDON – British Tornado fighter jets have launched their first attacks against Islamic State targets in Iraq since parliament approved combat operations last Friday, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday.
“They identified and attacked a heavy weapons position that was endangering Kurdish forces and they subsequently attacked an (IS) armed pick-up truck in the same area,” he told the BBC.
“Both Tornados have now returned safely to their base and the initial attack assessment is that both attacks were successful,” he added.
The UK parliament’s vote on Friday added the significant air power of the Royal Air Force to a burgeoning list of countries prepared to attack the terrorist network in Iraq specifically, where it still holds valuable, populated territory. Their mission comes at the expressed invitation of the Iraqi government and without much fear of direct reprisal: Islamic State cannot reach British Tornados, or their American, French, or Australian partners flying with them.
Britain’s first mission on Saturday was intelligence-gathering, the Defense Ministry said.
Denmark and Belgium also agreed to join the air campaign over the weekend.
The United States has been conducting air strikes over Iraq since August 8 and over Syria since last Tuesday as part of a campaign to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State insurgents who have captured swathes of both countries, beheaded Western hostages and ordered Shi’ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.
Britain joined a US-led coalition supported by some Gulf and European nations against the rebel group.
France has also conducted air strikes in Iraq, while Washington said Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates joined strikes over Syria on Saturday.
French fighter jets struck Islamic State targets in Iraq on Thursday, a prompt answer to the beheading of a French tourist Herve Gourdel in Algeria by Islamic State supporters, who said the killing was punishment for Paris’s decision to become the first European country to join the US-led bombing campaign.
No European nation, however, has joined the US in its “borderless” air war on Islamic State in Syria. Fighting has flared between Islamic State and the Kurds living near Syria’s border with Turkey, dragging Turkey, a NATO ally, deeper into the conflict.
via The Jerusalem Post