Belgium to offer fighter jets for Islamic State strikes

24th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Belgium plans to send six F-16 fighter jets to join the US-led coalition against the Islamic State militant group but will limit their use to Iraq, the government said.

The Belgian parliament must still approve the move, which follows a formal request from Washington on Tuesday, Belgian Defence Minister Pieter De Crem said.

The threat posed by the IS group prompted the United States to launch airstrikes in Iraq last month and on Tuesday the operation was expanded to IS and other groups in Syria.

De Crem was quoted as saying by the Belga news agency that the government had approved an initial one-month deployment, which could be renewed.

The deployment of the US-built fighter bombers would be "limited to Iraq", as it had made an international appeal for help, Foreign Minister Didier Reynders added.

A full vote in parliament is expected in coming days, possibly on Friday. It is expected to pass.

The planes would be deployed two or three days later.

The F-16s would be based in Jordan, one of the Arab nations that has joined the coalition, and would be accompanied by around 120 personnel, the defence ministry said.

But a plan to send a C-130 transport plane and special forces tasked with training Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces was not officially discussed by the ministers, Belga said.

Belgium has expressed mounting concerns over the Islamic State group, with around 350 to 400 of its nationals having gone to fight in Iraq and Syria.

The US military operation in Syria is supported by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan.

Iraq has welcomed the US-led attacks on jihadist groups including the Islamic State organisation.

France sent Rafale fighters into action in Iraq last week, while British media said parliament could be recalled as early as Friday to decide whether to join up.

But Paris and London have both said they will not join the US-led operation in Syria.

Meanwhile the Netherlands is to send four F-16s to join the air strikes, Dutch media reported Wednesday ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting.


© 2014 AFP

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