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RAF fighter planes prepare to target IS leadership

Published 05/12/2015

RAF Typhoons have began combat missions against IS over Syria and Iraq
RAF Typhoons have began combat missions against IS over Syria and Iraq

RAF fighters are preparing to target the leadership of Islamic State (IS), Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said, as British war planes again hit a Syrian oil field controlled by the extremists.

Speaking at RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus where the UK strike force is based, Mr Fallon said future missions would see them attack IS's headquarters and its command and control structure.

"We are going to use force against them in the headquarters, their command and control, their logistics, but also in the infrastructure that supports them," he told the Press Association.

The latest overnight raids saw the RAF Typhoons which arrived on the island on Thursday deployed for the first time on combat operations against IS - also referred to as Isis, Isil or Daesh.

Two Typhoon FGR4ss and two Tornado GR4s returned to the Omar oil field - scene of the first bombing raids after Wednesday's Commons vote authorising air strikes - where they carried out eight attacks using Paveway IV guided bombs.

"Early reports suggest that they were successful," the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

"Our aircraft then remained on patrol to collect intelligence on possible terrorist positions and be ready to strike any further targets that might be identified in eastern Syria or western Iraq."

Across the border in Iraq, an unmanned RAF Reaper drone - flying close support for Kurdish peshmerga ground forces - destroyed an IS truck bomb with a direct hit from a Hellfire missile, the MoD said.

Addressing around 200 crew in a hangar at the air base, Mr Fallon said they should be prepared for a long campaign to counter the terrorist threat from IS.

"This is a very real threat to us in Britain. And it derives from Syria," he said.

"This campaign is not going to be short or simple. We face a new kind of enemy that makes no demands, takes no hostages, doesn't want to negotiate."

"It's not what we do that they oppose, it's what we are. We are people who choose our Government, accept a rule of law, tolerate other religions. It's because of who we are in Britain and the West that we have this particular death cult."

His comments came amid reports the ringleader of last month's Paris terror attacks - which left 130 dead - had links with people in the UK.

The Wall Street Journal quoted two western officials as saying that Abdelhamid Abaaoud - who died in a shoot-out with police following the atrocities - was suspected of having connections with people in Birmingham, including several with Moroccan heritage.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that one of the Paris gunmen had travelled to London and Birmingham earlier this year, before returning to the continent.

The unnamed terrorist was said to have met people "suspected of having the intention and capability of plotting or assisting terrorist activity" in the UK.

West Midlands Police assistant chief constable Marcus Beale described the reports as "speculative" but confirmed the force was assisting in the investigation into the Paris attacks.

"The West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit is working hand-in-hand with counter-terrorism colleagues in London, the national CT network and security services to provide support to the French and Belgian investigations and of course to address any associated terrorism threat to the UK," he told ITV.

"We work tirelessly to counter terrorism. Our absolute priority is to ensure the safety and security of the people who live, work and visit the West Midlands area."

Abaaoud, 27, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, is thought to have led 10 other Islamist extremists in the gun and suicide bomb attacks in the French capital last month.

Belgian authorities yesterday announced they were hunting two new suspects said to have been seen in September travelling with Salah Abdeslam, another suspect who remains at large.

The men were thought to be carrying bogus IDs with the names of Samir Bouzid and Soufiane Kayal.

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