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UK to train Syria opposition groups

Britain is to provide military training to moderate Syrian opposition groups fighting Islamic State forces, the Government has announced.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the UK would send around 75 military trainers and headquarters staff to provide instruction in the use of small arms, infantry tactics and medical skills.

The training, which forms part of a US-led programme to support the moderate Syrian opposition, will take place in Turkey.

Mr Fallon said that Islamic State - also referred to as Isil - could only be defeated by local forces on the ground in Syria and Iraq.

"Britain remains at the forefront of coalition military efforts to support the Iraqi government in their fight against Isil. This effective and closely co-ordinated activity in conjunction with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces has largely stalled the terrorists' advances," he said.

"But Isil must be defeated in both Iraq and Syria. In Syria, coalition air strikes have supported the liberation of Kobane and have disrupted Isil's logistics and supply lines.

"However, defeating Isil ultimately lies with local forces and we are helping to create effective ground forces in Syria, as well as in Iraq, so they can take the fight to Isil."

Mr Fallon said two RAF Sentinel surveillance aircraft were also being deployed to the region to operate alongside Tornado strike jets and Reaper drones that have been carrying out air strikes against Islamic State (IS) targets in Iraq.

The training programme, expected to start in the coming weeks, is intended to equip and train thousands of screened members of the opposition in Syria over the next three years.

British military instructors have already been providing training to Kurdish peshmerga militias fighting IS in northern Iraq.

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