French airstrikes ‘destroy’ IS camp in Syria, Paris

Six French jet fighters targeted and destroyed an Islamic State (IS) training camp in eastern Syria, president Francois Hollande said yesterday, making good on a promise to go after the group he said is planning attacks against several countries, including France.

The strikes were France’s first in Syria.

“The camp was totally destroyed,” Hollande said yesterday after arriving at the UN before the start of a major development summit and the UN General Assembly. “We’re sure there were no casualties” among civilians, he added.

Hollande told reporters the strikes on the training camp, and others to come, were aimed at “protecting our territory, cutting short terrorist actions, acting in legitimate defence”.

Hollande said more strikes “could take place in the coming weeks if necessary.”

The targets were identified in earlier French reconnaissance flights and with information from the US-led coalition. The president announced earlier this month a change in French strategy — expanding its airstrikes over Iraq into Syria.

France has carried out 215 airstrikes against IS extremists in Iraq as part of the US-led coalition since last year, the defence ministry said earlier this month.

French prime minister Manuel Valls said France was going after IS “sanctuaries where those who want to hit France are trained”.

The goal of the strikes is to “slow, break, stop if possible the penetration of Daesh”, Gen Vincent Desportes said on the iTele TV station, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Hollande stressed the importance of seeking a political solution for Syria.

“More than ever the urgency is putting in place a political transition,” including elements of the moderate opposition and Assad’s regime, the statement said.

At the same time, he said, “the future of Syria cannot be with Bashar al Assad”.

Hollande announced on September 7 France’s intention to start airstrikes, days after the photo of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy galvanised public concern about refugees fleeing to save their lives.

In his statement yesterday, Hollande said: “Civilian populations must be protected from all forms of violence, that of IS and other terrorist groups but also the murderous bombardments of Bashar Assad.”

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