France launches fresh strikes against Islamic State

France launches fresh strikes against Islamic State
European Union ministers unanimously backed France's request for help with military missions in the wake of the Paris attacks, as French warplanes strafed the Syrian stronghold of Islamic State extremists.
3 min read
17 November, 2015

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday asked other European Union [EU] states for help with its military operations abroad and support in its fight against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

The request was unanimously backed by EU defence ministers the same day.

"Today the EU through the voices of all the member states unanimously expressed its strongest full support and readiness to give the assistance needed," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a press conference in Brussels with French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

"France cannot act alone in these theatres," Le Drian had told fellow EU defence ministers prior to the announcement.

Le Drian invoked article 42-7 in the EU treaties that provides for the solidarity of member states in the event of an attack on one of them.

His appeal came after Friday's bloodshed in Paris - the worst ever terror attacks on French soil.

It is the first time that a European Union member state invokes the article, which is similar to NATO's article five which the United States activated after the September 11, 2001 attacks and triggered the alliance's intervention in Afghanistan.

Nationwide raids continue 

Meanwhile, French police launched dozens of fresh raids across the country as warplanes strafed the Syrian stronghold of Islamic State extremists which France has vowed to destroy.

Authorities in France and Belgium stepped up the hunt for more gunmen and possible accomplices to the shootings and suicide  bombings on bars, restaurants and a sports stadium that killed 129 mostly young people on Friday night.

US Secretary of State John Kerry described those behind the massacre as "psychopathic monsters".

"This is not a clash of civilisations. These terrorists have declared war against all civilisation," said Kerry on Monday as he arrived in the scarred French capital to meet President Francois Hollande on Tuesday morning to pledge Washington's solidarity with Paris.

Police are on the trail of 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, one of three brothers believed involved, and investigators believe Belgian extremist Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is based in Syria, was the mastermind of the attacks.

French police carried out 128 raids targeting extremist networks across the country on Tuesday morning, a day after a similar sweep found "an arsenal of weapons" in the southeastern city of Lyon, according to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

He said more than 100 people had been placed under house arrest and 23 arrested.

'Action' against IS in Syria

French warplanes destroyed a command centre and training centre in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the stronghold of IS, in its second series of airstrikes in 24 hours, the defence ministry said.

Hollande has vowed to hit back at IS "without mercy" after the attacks which stunned the nation less than a year after a three-day attack which left 17 dead, including on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Friday's "acts of war... were decided and planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium (and) perpetrated on our soil with French complicity," Hollande told an extraordinary meeting of both houses of parliament in Versailles.

"The need to destroy Daesh (IS)... concerns the entire international community," he told lawmakers, who burst into an emotional rendition of the Marseillaise national anthem after his speech.

Hollande said the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle would be deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to "triple our capacity to take action" against IS in Syria.

"We will continue the strikes in the weeks to come... There will be no respite and no truce," he said.

The vessel, the flagship of the French navy, will take a few days to reach its destination, near Syria or Lebanon, whereas it was not due to reach the Gulf - its original destination - until next month.