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France launches more air strikes on IS targets in Syria

A file photo of a French air force Rafale fighter jet
A file photo of a French air force Rafale fighter jet Reuters

France has carried out a second wave of air strikes on Islamic State group targets in Syria, focused on the stronghold of Raqqa, as Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accuses Russia of failing to target the group.

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Le Drian told Europe 1 on Friday that "80 to 90 per cent" of Moscow’s air strikes in Syria are not aimed at Islamic State targets.

"Their main aim is (to ensure) the security of (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad," he said. "We do not consider Bashar part of the solution."

The defence minister said that the strikes - which come after France destroyed similar camps last month - will not be the last.

"We know that in Syria, in particular around Raqqa, there are training camps for foreign combatants whose mission is not to go fight for the Islamic State group but to come to France, to Europe, to carry out attacks," said Le Drian.

He said France's air strikes were complicated by the fact that the group uses human shields.

"IS organises itself in such a way that children, women and civilians are in the frontline," he said. "The leaders hide in schools, mosques and hospitals, which makes the job of the (international) coalition difficult."

French President Francois Hollande last month reversed France’s decision only to carry out air strikes in Iraq, while ministers say that the Islamic State group is a direct threat to France's national security.

Meanwhile, Russia posted a graphic on its defence ministry website this week showing 26 missiles flying over Iran and Iraq before striking inside Syria, where it has been conducting air strikes in defence of President Assad since 30 September.

The missile launches were in support of a major ground offensive by the Syrian army on several fronts in the war-torn country's west.

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