to join US, France in Iraq airstrikes

SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)-Australian fighter jets are being deployed to the Middle East to join the US-led campaign of airstrikes on jihadist targets in northern Iraq, Defense Minister David Johnston said Monday.

“We will provide a number of military platforms, up to eight Super Hornet aircraft to participate in a US-led coalition in delivering airstrikes,” he told reporters in Baghdad after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on September 14 that Australia would send fighter jets and forces to the United Arab Emirates as its contribution to the US-led military effort against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group.

“We are in the process of deploying them to the Middle East,” Johnston said Tuesday, adding however that more preparation work was needed before the Australian jets were brought into action.

“We are some distance from the start of that now, we need to deal with a few technical matters with respect to operations,” said Johnston.

The deployment also includes an E-7 Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft and an aerial refuelling tanker aircraft, as well as special forces who will act as military advisers.

ISIS fighters are active in swathes of Iraq and Syria but Abbott has said Canberra had no plans to intervene in Syria.

According to the Pentagon, US aircraft have carried out 178 air strikes against ISIS targets since August 8. France has since joined the campaign and launched its own strikes.

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