French Carrier Operation Against ISIS Begins on Monday

Tue Feb 24, 2015 15:28:37

A French aircraft carrier launched operations against ISIS on Monday as the new Pentagon chief summoned top generals and diplomats to Kuwait to review the war effort.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter vowed the extremists would suffer a "lasting defeat" as he convened the extraordinary meeting of more than two dozen senior military officers, ambassadors and intelligence officials at the sprawling US Army base of Camp Arifjan.

Washington forged a coalition of Western and Arab nations to confront ISIS after the Sunni extremist group seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic "caliphate" last year.The coalition has since carried out more than 2,000 air strikes against the extremists and France boosted its participation on Monday with the Charles de Gaulle carrier launching raids from the Persian Gulf.

"This threat, jihadist terrorism, wants to reach our citizens, our interests, our values. France's response will be total firmness," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on board, seven weeks after extremist attacks killed 17 people in Paris.

Four Rafale fighter jets took off in the morning from the French carrier about 200 kilometres north of Bahrain in the direction of Iraq.

Carrying 12 Rafale and nine Super Etendard fighters, the carrier will spend eight weeks in the Persian Gulf working alongside the USS Carl Vinson, significantly increasing France's regional air capabilities.

France, along with Australia, is a main contributor to the 32-member coalition effort aside from the United States, which is carrying out the bulk of strikes.

France and other Western nations are conducting operations over Iraq and several Arab nations are taking part in strikes over Syria.

Coalition aircraft launched 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Syria and seven in Iraq in 24 hours to Monday morning, the Pentagon said.

A total of 52 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed on Monday in separate clashes and U.S.-led coalition air strikes in Iraq, security sources said.

U.S. and partner-nation warplanes conducted an airstrike on ISIS positions near a bridge outside the militant-seized city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, killing at least five militants and wounding seven others, the source said.

Elsewhere, warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition on late Sunday night hit an ISIS convoy outside a village near the town of Daqouq, some 40 km south of Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, destroying two vehicles and killing some 18 militants aboard, a local security source on condition of anonymity.

"ISIL is not just a threat to Iraq and Syria. It's a larger threat to the region," said Carter.

ISIS influence has spread as it cements its hold on territory in Syria and Iraq, with terrorists groups in several countries pledging allegiance.

The Libyan branch claimed responsibility for suicide bombings last week that officials said killed 40, as well as the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, mostly Egyptian.

The Kuwait meeting was not intended to produce a new strategy but to allow Carter to better understand the ISIS challenge and efforts aimed at defeating it, a senior US defence official said.

US military officials have said they want Iraqi forces to launch an offensive to retake the strategic northern city of Mosul from IS in April or May.Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said on Sunday the timing of the Mosul assault was for Iraq to decide, criticizing a U.S. Central Command official who predicted the attack was likely to take place in April or May.

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