France started carrying out air strikes early Sunday against Islamic State in Syria in an act of “self-defense” to stop the militant group from carrying out attacks inside France.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on BFM-TV that the strikes targeted Islamic State training centers where militants were being prepared for carrying out attacks in France.
“We are hitting Daesh because this terrorist organization prepares its attacks against France from Syria. We are acting in self-defense,” Valls said, using an Arabic name for Islamic State.
The announcement came a few hours before President Francois Hollande was to join world leaders for the start of the United Nations general assembly in New York.
“Our country thus confirms its resolute commitment to fight against the terrorist threat represented by Daesh (Islamic State). We will strike each time that our national security is at stake,” the French Presidency said in a statement.
Islamist militants carried out a number of attacks in France this year, including one on the Paris office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people died.
Iraq to share intel on IS with Russia, Syria, Iran
Iraq will begin sharing “security and intelligence” information with Russia, Syria and Iran to help combat the advances of the Islamic State group, the Iraqi military announced Sunday.
A statement issued by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the countries will “help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group.”
Iraq has long had close ties with neighboring Iran and has coordinated with Tehran in fighting the advance of Islamic State — which controls about a third of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared caliphate.
Iranian commanders have helped lead Iraqi Shiite militiamen in combat.
A US-led coalition has been conducting aerial bombing campaigns against Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria, but US officials insist they have no coordination with Tehran on the matter.
The agreement with Russia comes at a time when Moscow is ramping up its involvement in Syria in defense of its ally Bashar Assad, with Russian soldiers on the ground in Syria.
The Iraqi military statement said Moscow is increasingly concerned about “the presence of thousands of terrorists from Russia who are carrying out criminal acts with Daesh.”
Putin questions US support for Syrian rebels
Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday branded US support for rebel forces in Syria as illegal and ineffective, saying US-trained rebels were leaving to join IS with weapons supplied by Washington.
In an interview with US networks recorded ahead of a meeting with US President Barack Obama, Putin said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deserved international support as he was fighting terrorist organizations.
“In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter,” he said.