French President Francois Hollande said Thursday Paris will conduct airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq in the near future. The announcement comes as the militant group released a new video of a foreign hostage.
Hollande said Rafale fighter jets had been dispatched in their second reconnaissance mission over Iraq in a week. As soon as they identify Islamic State targets, he said, France will respond. And that, he said, will be soon.
At an international conference earlier this week in Paris, more than two dozen nations pledged to support the Iraqi government and combat the Islamic State by “any means necessary.”
For countries like France, the threat of militant Islam resonates strongly. The government estimates nearly 1,000 people have left the country to join the Islamic State and other jihadi movements abroad. Some are now returning.
Officials have previously said France might join the United States in conducting airstrikes against the militant group “if necessary.” This is the first time Hollande has confirmed it will happen. But he ruled out carrying those strikes over into Syria.
Doing so, he said, would support the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Instead, Paris will continue supporting the moderate opposition in its efforts to overturn the regime or find a political solution. He also said the Islamic State had been able to flourish in the “chaos” of Syria, partly because the international community had remained “inert” last year, after the Assad regime used chemical weapons.
Earlier Thursday, Islamic State militants released a new video of a British man who identifies himself as a journalist, wearing the same orange jumpsuit as other western hostages. The group has already beheaded two American journalists and one British aid worker in recent weeks.