French war planes head for IS-held Mosul

French war planes head for IS-held Mosul
Video: French warplanes took off towards Iraq's Mosul on Friday, in what is expected to be preparations for a coalition offensive against Islamic State group due to start in October.
2 min read
30 September, 2016

French war planes were launched from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on Friday to begin an operation against the Islamic State group in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, an officer said.

Eight warplanes took off from the eastern Mediterranean carrier, an AFP photographer on the flight deck reported, however no further details were provided on the nature of the operation.

It was not immediately clear whether the French jets were to carry out air strikes or were on a reconnaissance mission.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the carrier was "contributing to the coalition's strikeforce", but that the offensive for Mosul had not yet begun.

"It is not the start of the battle for Mosul. This is the continuation of support operations that we are providing for the coalition," he said on a visit to western France.

"A major operation is about to be unleashed, but not today," he added.

The Charles de Gaulle is on its third mission since February 2015 in support of the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria. 

French President Francois Hollande announced in July that the Charles de Gaulle, which carries 24 Rafale jets, would be sent back to the region for bombing raids on IS targets.

The vessel's latest mission is planned to end in late October, according to Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

IS seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground from the militants and are readying for an assault to retake Iraq's second-largest city with coalition air and artillery support.

On Wednesday, the US announced it will send an additional 600 troops to Iraq to help Baghdad's bid to retake Mosul from Islamic State group militants.

"In consultation with the government of Iraq, the US is prepared to provide additional US military personnel to train and advise the Iraqis as the planning for the Mosul campaign intensifies," the official said.

The "Battle for Mosul" has been predicted to begin in October, but there have been previous touted offensives on the largest city under IS control cancelled over the past two years.