NH1 News Debates


Sep 19, 2014 12:29 PM

France strikes Islamic State group depot in Iraq

The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) Joining U.S. forces acting in Iraqi skies, French fighter jets struck Friday against the militant Islamic State group, destroying a logistics depot, Iraqi and French officials said.

That attack made France 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.

Two Rafale fighter jets accompanied by support planes struck in northern Iraq on Friday morning, and the target was "entirely destroyed," President Francois Hollande said.

Four laser-guided bombs struck the Iraqi military installation that had been overrun by the militants, and hit a munitions and fuel depot, a French military official said on condition of anonymity while discussing operational details.

Iraq's military spokesman said dozens of extremist fighters were killed in four strikes, though the French official said the French armed forces had not completed their damage assessment.

"Other operations will follow in the coming days with the same goal to weaken this terrorist organization and come to the aid of the Iraqi authorities," Hollande said. "There are always risks in taking up a responsibility. I reduced the risks to a minimum."

Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for the Iraqi military, said the French planes hit near the town of Zumar, in an area that remains 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.

Hollande, who said the airstrikes were requested by Iraq's government, ruled out French troops on the ground.

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 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 indicate 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 recently in central African Republic.

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. They 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're with us again now," Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Normandy. "It just reminds me why these relationships really matter."

Hollande 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.

France is conducting operations in Iraq from French Air Base 104 inside the vast Al Dhafra base near Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. French jets began flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq on Monday.

The base, home to about 700 French service personnel and six Rafales, is 1,700 kilometers (1,055 miles) from Mosul, meaning that the planes need midair refueling to strike in Iraq.

For future operations, France could also mobilize its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, which is now docked in southeastern France and would need at least five days to reach the eastern Mediterranean. The ship can carry about 30 planes including Rafales, Super-Etendards and U.S-built E-2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.


Sylvie Corbet in Paris; Robert Burns in Caen, France; and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad contributed.


--  Dealing with the Disease of Addiction? Click here for help --

More from NH1.com

NH1 News Debates
NH1 News Replay

NH1 on Twitter

NH1 SkyView Cameras

NH1 on Facebook

Check out NH1 News Rail Polls on LockerDome on LockerDome