BAGHDAD: France mounted its first air strike to beat back the Islamic State group in Iraq on Friday, even as jihadists across the border in Syria seized dozens of Kurdish villages in a lightning offensive.
More than a decade after Paris famously refused to back the US-led invasion of Iraq, France became the first nation to join America’s campaign of air strikes targeting the Islamic State (IS) in the war-torn country.
“This morning at 9:40, our Rafale planes carried out a first strike against a logistics depot of the terrorist organisation,” President Francois Hollande said.
French defence ministry sources said two jets dropped laser-guided GBU-12 bombs in the Mosul area. They said “a lot of ammunition”, vehicles and fuel reserves were destroyed.
Kurdish military spokesman Halgord Hekmat identified the location as Tal Mus, between the city of Mosul and Zumar.
France, as well as Britain, had already sent aircraft into Iraq’s skies for surveillance missions.
US aircraft have carried out 178 strikes since August 8 but President Barack Obama has been keen to build a broad international coalition.
At the United Nations Security Council in New York, US Secretary of State John Kerry brought together 35 countries –including Washington’s traditional foe Iran, to bolster support for the campaign against the jihadists.
Kerry said the turnout, which also included Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, showed “the clear need for all of us to come together, to welcome and to support the new inclusive government in Iraq and of course to put an end to ISIL’s unfettered barbarity”.
Tehran is backing both Iraq and Syria in their battle against the Islamic State group, and Kerry said that in combating the jihadist threat “there is a role for nearly every country to play, including Iran”.