Australia conducts first air strikes in Iraq: military

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SYDNEY: A Super Hornet fighter jet has carried out Australia’s first bombing raid in Iraq, targeting what the defence ministry on Thursday described as a “facility” of the Islamist State group.

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“Overnight the Australian Air Task Group operating in the Middle East attacked its first target in Iraq,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Two bombs were dropped from an F/A-18F Super Hornet onto an ISIL facility. All aircraft exited the target area safely and returned to base.”

Australia is part of the international coalition conducting an air campaign against the IS group that the United States has been building since first launching air strikes in August.

Canberra has deployed up to eight F/A-18 combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, and a KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker and Transport aircraft to the United Arab Emirates.

Jets flew their first armed mission on Sunday, but no bombs were dropped until now.

The defence ministry said no further details were available.

Like France, Britain, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, Australia has limited its operations to Iraq. The United States and several Arab coalition partners have also been conducting air strikes against IS militants in Syria.

Australia has also sent 600 troops to the UAE, including special forces and support staff, primarily to help Iraqi forces with planning and coordination against IS. They are awaiting final legal approval before deploying.

“We’ve got a special forces team of up to 200 that are ready to go and they’ll be performing advise and assist missions with the Iraqi security forces, with the best of the Iraqi security forces,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday.

“We’ll be in a better position to judge what might be desirable down the track once we’re in there.”

Australia’s involvement in Iraq has the backing of both Abbott’s conservative coalition and the opposition Labor Party, with the government saying that supporting international operations was in Australia’s national interest.

AFP

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