Monday, 18 August 2014

Iraq mission ‘could last for months’

Iraq crisis: UK mission could last for months – FallonMichael Fallon met British forces personnel at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, where the UK operation is based
The UK could be involved in military missions in Iraq for “weeks and months” to come, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has warned.

He told military personnel on a visit to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus that the UK’s role in Iraq had expanded beyond the original humanitarian mission.
He said the RAF was flying missions to gather intelligence about movements of Islamic State (IS) militants.
It comes after the PM warned IS could target the UK unless action was taken.
David Cameron said a humanitarian response to the current crisis in Iraq was not enough and a “firm security response” was needed.
IS, an extreme Sunni Islam group, is seeking to build a so-called “caliphate” – a new Islamic state spanning Iraq and Syria.
The group has seized large parts of both countries in recent months and is alleged to have carried out mass killings of non-Muslims.
On Sunday, Kurdish forces – aided by US air strikes – were reported to have regained control of the strategically-important Mosul dam after ousting IS militants. The facility was seized by IS earlier this month.
Kurdish troops with US air support have been fighting to retake Mosul damThe defence secretary visited RAF crews in Cyprus over the weekend and made it clear they would be involved in Iraq for some time to come.
“There may well now be in the next few weeks and months other ways that we may need to help save life [and] protect people and we are going to need all of you again and the surveillance you are able to give us,” he told the service members.
“We want to help the new government of Iraq and Kurdish forces. We want to help them stop the advance of IS and stop them from being terrorised.
“This is not simply a humanitarian mission. We and other countries in Europe are determined to do what we can to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism that IS is promoting.”
The BBC’s Paul Wood has met victims of the crisis in Syria and Iraq
Mr Fallon said the RAF had now deployed the Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft alongside Tornado bombers to provide vital intelligence on IS movements across Iraq.
He also said four Chinook helicopters remained on stand-by to carry out any airlift of refugees fleeing violence if necessary.
Troops from the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire regiment had been sent into the Kurdish capital Irbil for 24 hours to prepare the ground for a possible rescue mission by the helicopters.
They have now left but BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said British special forces were still believed to be in northern Iraq.
Mr Fallon said the UK had already transported ammunition and arms supplied by other countries to re-supply Kurdish forces, adding that Britain might also supply equipment such as body armour and night-vision goggles.
Shia Muslim refugees from Mosul eat at a refugee camp in BaghdadThe next objective for Peshmerga troops was to clear IS fighters from the Nineveh plain, north-west of Baghdad, “to ensure the return of minorities”, said Kurdish officials.
Thousands of Christians and Yazidis have fled their homes to escape IS fighters. IS has also persecuted Shia Muslims, whom it does not regard as true Muslims.
“If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain,” Mr Cameron said at the weekend.
He warned that if IS was able to “carve out its so-called caliphate”, the UK would be “facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean”.
He said: “True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – to help bring about a more stable world.”
The prime minister faced criticism from Church leaders who expressed concern that the UK had no “coherent” approach to tackling Islamic extremism.
The Bishop of Leeds warned “many” senior clergy in the Church of England were seriously concerned about Britain’s approach to the handling of the Iraq crisis.
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