France uses aircraft carrier to fight IS in Iraq
Paris, Feb 23 (IANS) France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has started military operations against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, French media reported Monday.
The first Rafale fighter jets took off in the early morning from the carrier, which is north of Bahrain in the Gulf heading in the direction of Iraq, defence ministry sources were quoted as saying.
It took the warplanes about an hour and a half to reach their targets, around half the time from the Al Dhafra base in United Arab Emirates, which is used by the French Air Force, Xinhua news agency reported citing the French media.
The Charles de Gaulle, which left Toulon Jan 13 for a mission of about five months, will be stationed for weeks in the Gulf as part of the international coalition against IS led by the US.
With its aircraft carrier, Paris wanted to support intelligence work and strengthen strikes against IS targets in Iraq, reported leading French newspaper Le Figaro.
France joined the US-led coalition against IS in September with the launch of Operation Chammal at the request of Iraqi authorities, as Baghdad asked for an enhancement of military support for local forces to combat IS, which is bent on imposing its version of Islamic law in Iraq and Syria.
According to the French ministry of defence, France has mobilised for Operation Chammal a number of fighter and tanker aircraft to help destroy IS targets in Iraq, a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
At home, where terror risks remain high after Paris joined the anti-IS coalition, French President Francois Hollande pledged to beef up security measures while boosting the military offensive against IS.