October 22, 2016

France to send artillery to Iraq in fight against ISIL

Hollande said the weapons would be available to Iraqi forces in August [Thibault Camus/EPA]

French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hollande announced the plan on Friday, saying the artillery equipment “will be in place next month”.

Ground forces will not be deployed in the country, Hollande said, following a high-level security meeting in Paris, his fourth since the ISIL-claimed lorry attack in Nice on July 14, which killed 84 people.

The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.

An aide to the president told the AFP news agency that France would also send military advisors to train Iraqi forces in using the artillery.

France’s air force is currently participating in strikes against ISIL as a part of US-led operations in Syria and Iraq.

Special forces in Libya

Elsewhere, protests erupted in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Thursday following confirmation by Hollande that French special forces are operating in the country and that three French officers had been killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Libya while an intelligence-gathering mission.

It was the first official confirmation that members of France’s special forces were engaged in operations in the North African country.

Al-Sadeq al-Ghariyani, an ultraconservative Libyan cleric, denounced France’s involvement as “foreign invasion” and protesters called for attack on French business interests in the country.

Libya’s UN-backed government in Tripoli also condemned France’s military action in the country.

After the 2011 ousting of Muammar Gaddafi by NATO-backed rebels, Libya slid into chaos and years later, it split into two governments and parliaments – each backed by a loose array of militias and tribes.

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