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Britain Launches First Air Strikes On IS Militants in Iraq

A handout picture provided by the British Ministry of Defense shows a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 returning from an armed mission in support of operation "Shader" in Iraq, to the RAF station in Akrotiri, Cyprus, on September 30.
A handout picture provided by the British Ministry of Defense shows a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 returning from an armed mission in support of operation "Shader" in Iraq, to the RAF station in Akrotiri, Cyprus, on September 30.

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon says British jet fighters on September 30 launched their first air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

Fallon said two British warplanes "identified and attacked a heavy weapons position that was endangering Kurdish forces" in northern Iraq, then attacked an armed pickup truck with IS militants in the same area.

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq say air strikes helped them capture the strategic border crossing at Rabia, about 100 kilometers northwest of Mosul, and several nearby villages.

Peshmerga forces also attacked the town of Zumar and retook two nearby villages.

Peshmerga Secretary-General Jabbar Yawar said Iraqi Kurds have retaken about half of the territory that had been seized in northern Iraq by IS militants in August.

Meanwhile, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports British planes also flew missions in Anbar Province over Garma and Fallujah, which are both under IS control but surrounded by Iraqi government forces.

Fierce fighting was reported in Ramadi and Fallujah, but some 240 Iraqi security forces were reported surrounded by IS militants in the Hamidiya district.

U.S. air strikes and Iraqi forces also targeted IS militants to the west and south of Baghdad, reportedly killing dozens of fighters who were as close as 10 kilometers away from Baghdad’s city limits.

The U.S.-led military coalition also carried out fresh air strikes in northern Syria to support a besieged ethnic Kurdish town on the Syrian-Turkish border.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit IS fighters to the east and west of Kobani.

Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, also reported the air strikes hit IS targets outside of the town.

The Syrian Observatory group said fighting around Kobani on September 29 had killed 57 fighters on both sides.

Kobani -- a predominantly Kurdish town where Turkomans, Arabs, and ethnic Armenians also live -- has been besieged by IS militants since mid-September.

It has been a frontline battle zone between Kurdish fighters and IS militants since mid-2013.

Despite several previous air strikes, IS fighters have made advances toward Kobani in recent days.

Kobani is considered one of the main towns of Syrian Kurdistan, which is protected by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The YPG has previously accused Turkish border guards of allowing IS militants to cross from Turkey into northern Syria in order to battle Kurds in Syria after more than three decades of fighting between Turkish forces and Kurds in southeastern Turkey.

But officials in Ankara on September 30 said a parliamentary mandate has been prepared that will allow Turkish forces to take military action in Iraq and Syria to cover “all possible threats and risks.”

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on September 30 that the parliamentary mandate would be voted on by lawmakers on October 2.

Meanwhile, officials in Tehran said on September 30 that Iran does not see any “intention” by an international coalition, led by the United States, to mount a ground offensive in Syria against IS militants.

Iran and Russia have previously complained that U.S.-led air strikes in Syrian territory were violations of international law.

But Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told the United Nations General Assembly on September 29 that Damascus “stands with any international effort aimed at fighting and combatting terrorism.”

Muallem also told the Associated Press that even though the United States does not inform Syria about every air strike before it happens, “It is ok. We are fighting ISIS. They are fighting ISIS."
With reporting by Reuters, BBC, AP, and AFP
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