Britain carries out first air strikes against ISIS in Iraq

US war planes flying over northern Iraq on Sept 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US war planes flying over northern Iraq on Sept 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British fighter jets on Tuesday bombed an artillery post and an armed truck used by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) in Iraq in the Royal Air Force's first strikes in the US-led air campaign.

The defence ministry said two Tornado jets hit the post with a Brimstone missile used against tanks and the vehicle with a 230 kilogramme Paveway IV laser-guided bomb.

"Both assessed successful," it said on Twitter. Another tweet said: "Tornado jets have carried out first air strikes in support of democratic Iraqi government."

The ministry did not say when or where the strikes were carried out but explained they had aided Kurdish troops in the area.

"I can confirm that the RAF were in action today in support of the Iraqi government in northwest Iraq," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said, adding that the strikes were carried out by two jets from an RAF base in Cyprus.

"They identified and attacked a heavy weapon position that was endangering Kurdish forces and they subsequently attacked an ISIL armed pick-up truck in the same area," he said, using an alternative name for ISIS.

The British parliament last week approved a motion to join in a US-led military campaign against ISIS militants who have seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months. The strikes signal the start of Britain's latest military engagement in Iraq after it pulled out all its troops in 2011 following an eight-year conflict.

The government has said it will not send combat troops on the ground or join air strikes in Syria without further parliamentary approval. British foreign minister Philip Hammond earlier on Tuesday said British forces would not be "panicked" into dropping bombs in Iraq.

"When we do release our weapons we have to be absolutely sure that they are against ISIL targets, that they are not going to kill innocent Sunni Muslim civilians in areas that are occupied by ISIL," he told the BBC. "Otherwise we are having the opposite of the effect we are intending to have," he said.

Asked about France joining the US-led coalition before Britain did, he said: "There is nobody who knows anything about air power who is suggesting that the French air force is a more formidable force than the RAF."

France has already carried out two rounds of air strikes.