France on Sunday said it launched its first airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.
French President Francois Hollande earlier this month said his country will have to carry out airstrikes against the militants, also known as ISIL and ISIS, in the war-torn country, days after France ordered surveillance flights over ISIL positions there.
Hollande said there was proof that attacks were planned from Syria against several countries including France, and blamed ISIL for Europe’s refugee crisis, the largest the continent has faced since World War II.
Announcing the airstrikes, Hollande’s office said in a statement Sunday: “Our country thus confirms its resolute commitment to fight against the terrorist threat represented by Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIL). We will strike each time that our national security is at stake.”
Also Sunday, Iraq’s military said it reached a deal to share intelligence with Russia, Iran and Syria in the fight against ISIL, CNN reported. The statement cited “the increasing concern from Russia about thousands of Russian terrorists committing criminal acts within ISIS,” according to the broadcaster.
France did not previously carry out airstrikes against ISIL in Syria because it feared such action could maintain the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It has however, carried out airstrikes in Iraq. A U.S.- led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against ISIL in both countries.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to drop his opposition to Assad playing a role in any Syrian transitional government when he meets leaders from around the world at the United Nations in New York City on Sunday, the BBC reported.
The broadcaster said Cameron will call for a new diplomatic drive to end the war, which started in 2011, but is expected to insist that Assad stand down.
Millions of refugees from countries including Syria and Iraq, where ISIL has seized vast swaths of territory, have fled to neighboring countries and to Europe. Sunday, an official said at least 17 Syrians drowned after their boat sank off the Turkish coast on the way to the Greek island of Kos, the Anadolu news agency reported.
French security forces had been on high alert since Islamic extremist gunmen, one of whom pledged allegiance to ISIL, carried out a series of attacks in Paris in January that left 20 people dead.
In an Islamist terror attack in June, a man was decapitated at a gas factory in the southeastern city of Lyon. In a separate incident, a gunman on a train heading from Amsterdam to Paris was tackled and subdued by passengers including three Americans in August as he apparently prepared to open fire on passengers.
USA TODAY reporter Kim Hjelmgaard traveled the land route taken by many migrants from Lesbos, Greece, to Berlin. Follow his journey on Twitter and here:
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