FRANCE - SYRIa

France starts air strikes on IS in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad www.francetvinfo.fr

France has carried out its first air strikes against the Islamic State (IS) armed group in Syria, following its decision to expand its bombing campaign against the jihadists from neighbouring Iraq. President François Hollande's office said the strikes hit targets identified during reconnaissance missions conducted over the past fortnight.

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A brief statement on Sunday said the operation to "fight the terrorist threat" of IS was coordinated with regional partners.

"We will strike any time our national security is at stake," it said.

Hollande earlier this month reversed France's decision only to carry out air strikes in Iraq and ministers claimed that IS was a direct threat to France's national security.

Sunday's statement called for a "comprehensive response [to the] Syrian chaos".

"Civilian populations must be protected against all forms of violence, that of Daesh [IS] and other terrorist groups but also against the murderous bombings of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad," it said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud about the Syria crisis on Saturrday, just two days before he is due to address the UN on the issue.

In a telephone call the two men discussed "building more effective international cooperation in the fight against the so-called Islamic State and other terrorist groups".

Moscow has supported Assad while Saudi Arabia insists it will never cooperate with his regime and is part of a US-led coalition that began an air campaign against IS in Syria last September.

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