Britain extends air strike campaign against ISIS in Iraq

LONDON • Britain will extend its air campaign in Iraq against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants by a year, said British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.

Ageing Tornado fighter jets would be used to conduct strikes until at least early 2017, he added.

Britain previously said the Tornados would stay operational until March next year - a year later than originally intended, and would then be finally taken out of service.

But Mr Fallon, on a visit to Iraq, said the planes, which are based in Cyprus, had capabilities that meant they should fly longer.

Speaking on BBC Radio yesterday, he said: "The Tornado squadrons have proved their worth in the air campaign because of the precision weapons they have, and because of the reconnaissance and surveillance that they carry out when they're not striking.

"The Americans and other allies have particularly valued the contribution of the Tornado, and that's why we are continuing with the Tornado squadron for another year."

The United States-led coalition has conducted dozens of air strikes in Iraq and Syria in recent days, as it seeks to weaken ISIS militants who have seized large swathes of both countries as part of their drive to create an Islamic caliphate.

Britain is part of the US-led coalition but it has Parliament's backing to carry out strikes in Iraq but not Syria. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron favours putting the matter to a second vote later this year - and try to gain support for carrying out air strikes in Syria - after the main opposition Labour party elects a new leader next month.

He hopes the new Labour chief could give him the support needed to get the move through the House of Commons, where he has a majority of only 12.

Mr Fallon said the rest of the international coalition "would welcome" the Tornado jets joining strikes against ISIS targets in northern Syria but that the British Parliament would have to vote on the issue.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2015, with the headline 'Britain extends air strike campaign against ISIS in Iraq'. Print Edition | Subscribe