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France Strikes IS Depot in Iraq        09/19 06:44

   Joining U.S. forces acting in Iraqi skies, France conducted its first 
airstrikes Friday against the militant Islamic State group, destroying a 
logistics depot that it controlled, Iraqi and French officials said.

   PARIS (AP) -- Joining U.S. forces acting in Iraqi skies, France conducted 
its first airstrikes Friday against the militant Islamic State group, 
destroying a logistics depot that it controlled, Iraqi and French officials 
said.

   Rafale fighter jets accompanied by support planes struck the depot in 
northern Iraq on Friday morning, and the target was "entirely destroyed," 
President Francois Hollande's office said in a statement. Iraq's military 
spokesman said four French airstrikes killed dozens of extremist fighters.

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

   Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military, said four French 
airstrikes hit the town of Zumar this morning, killing dozens of extremist 
fighters. Zumar and surrounding towns are heavily contested by Islamic State 
fighters, even though Iraqi and Kurdish security forces have managed to make 
headway nearby with the support of U.S. airstrikes.

   With the strikes, France becomes the first foreign country to publicly add 
military muscle to United States airstrikes against the group, which has drawn 
criticism around the world and in a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution 
for its barbarity.

   The first French airstrikes in Iraq have added significance: France, one of 
America's oldest allies, was among the most vocal critics of the decision of 
U.S. President George W. Bush to conduct military action in 2003 that toppled 
Saddam Hussein.

   Last year, France was ready to join possible U.S. military action against 
President Bashar Assad's force in Syria, before U.S. President Barack Obama 
stopped short. French authorities in recent weeks have suggested that the 
inaction there has fostered the development of the militants.

   The strikes come at a time when polls show Hollande is the most unpopular 
French president in decades --- mainly for his handling of France's economic 
difficulties. But he has drawn higher marks from the French public in the 
international arena, including by helping drive al-Qaida-linked militants from 
northern Mali last year and in central African Republic in recent months.

   U.S. Central Command said Thursday the U.S. military has conducted 176 
airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 8. On Wednesday, it hit a militant training camp 
southeast of Mosul and an ammunition stockpile southeast of Baghdad. It has 
also conducted a number of strikes this week in Iraq's Anbar province, near the 
strategic Haditha Dam.

   The French airstrike took place while U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in France for meetings with his counterpart, 
Gen. Pierre de Villiers. The two men were visiting an American military 
cemetery in Normandy, on the English Channel, when the French strike took place.

   Dempsey, who was told of the attack by de Villiers, praised the French 
action.

   "The French were our very first ally and they are there again for us," 
Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Normandy. "It just reminds me why 
these relationships really matter."

   At a news conference a day earlier, Hollande said France had agreed to 
"soon" conduct airstrikes requested by Iraq to bolster its fight against the 
militants who have captured swaths of the country.

   He stressed that France wouldn't go beyond airstrikes in support of the 
Iraqi military or Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and wouldn't attack targets in 
Syria, where the Islamic State group has also captured territory.

   French jets on Monday began flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq 
involving Rafales and an ATL2 surveillance plane, military spokesman Col. 
Gilles Jaron said.


(KA)


 
 
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