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Iraqis returning home to areas captured from Islamic State

Published 03/06/2016

Two Tornado missions provided reconnaissance and close air support to Iraqi forces around Fallujah
Two Tornado missions provided reconnaissance and close air support to Iraqi forces around Fallujah

International aid has helped more than half a million people return home to Iraqi areas captured from the Islamic State group, the United Nations has said.

The loss of large areas of territory by IS means more than 650,000 people have been able to go home since the start of the military campaign against the militants.

Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said: "Helping communities return home to areas liberated from Daesh (IS) occupation is one of our highest priorities.

"The UN and its partners, the government of Iraq and the Global Coalition, are working hard to ensure that once areas are liberated, rapid steps are taken so that Iraqis can return and rebuild their lives.

"The safe return of over 650,000 Iraqis sends a powerful signal that life is returning to normal and is testament to the efforts of the UN and coalition countries."

The repatriation comes as British aircraft carried out further strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets at key Iraqi strongholds.

Iraqi government forces have been fighting to regain control of Fallujah, with coalition air strikes providing support.

The Ministry of Defence released details of operations carried out by RAF jets and unmanned drones on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Video footage of one attack shows an IS truck being destroyed by an anti-tank missile fired from a Reaper drone.

On Tuesday, Tornado jets used Paveway IV guided bombs to destroy two heavy machine guns threatening the Iraqi advance on Fallujah.

Meanwhile, in northern Iraq a Typhoon jet and Reaper drone supported the Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi forces.

The Typhoon destroyed a local IS commander's HQ near Mosul while the Reaper assisted another coalition aircraft in targeting an engineering vehicle near Qayyarah before using its Hellfire missile against IS mortar teams.

Both the Typhoons and Reaper then headed south to support the advance on Fallujah, with the jets attacking a machine-gun post and the drone destroying an IS supply truck.

The MoD said the Reaper operator watched a group of IS fighters test-firing and loading weapons, including a heavy machine gun, onto the vehicle.

Video footage shows the impact of the Reaper's Hellfire missile on the moving truck, which can then be seen veering off the road.

A second Reaper destroyed both a machine-gun team and a vehicle carrying a recoilless anti-tank gun with its Hellfires.

The drones were in action again on Wednesday, attacking rocket launch rails near Qayyarah and a checkpoint in Iraq near the border with Syria.

Two Tornado missions provided reconnaissance and close air support to Iraqi forces around Fallujah.

One pair of Tornados used Paveway IVs to attack IS-held buildings close to a canal to the south of the city, one holding a sniper and the other an anti-tank gun.

The second Tornado flight targeted a heavy machine gun after it opened fire on the advancing Iraqi troops.

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From Belfast Telegraph