France strikes IS oil sites in Syria: defence minister
The French army has stepped up its bombing campaign against the Islamic State group's oil infrastructure with two new strikes in eastern Syria, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday.
"We struck again twice last night in the Deir Ezzor region, firstly on an oil distribution station and secondly on a gas separation plant," Le Drian told journalists on the sidelines of a forum on African peace and security in Dakar, Senegal.
Along with a bombing sortie the day before, it was part of France's third wave of strikes in Syria since President Francois Hollande decided in September to join the campaign there against IS.
On Monday, Le Drian announced a strike on an oil supply centre near Deir Ezzor, on the border between Iraq and Syria.
The two previous waves targeted training camps for foreign jihadists who were suspected of preparing attacks in France.
Hollande said on Thursday last week operations would be expanded to include "all those sites from which terrorists could threaten our territory".
The president also said France would deploy its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier -- the flagship of the French navy -- to boost operations against IS in Syria and Iraq.
Le Drian said on Monday that France was broadening its operations to target the distribution capabilities of IS, which derives a significant portion of its revenue from the oil trade.
The strikes on Sunday and Monday were conducted on the basis of information collected by the French during reconnaissance flights, according to Le Drian.
He told reporters France had "specific targets" which were being hit in coordination with the United States.
Le Drian added that French fighters had also carried out three strikes around Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, which fell in June last year to IS militants.
A US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria for more than a year in a campaign that has seen the jihadists lose some territory but also make new gains.
The White House announced on October 30 that President Barack Obama had authorised the first sustained deployment of "fewer than 50" special force personnel to Syria, reversing a longstanding refusal to put US boots on the ground.
Syrian regime troops on Tuesday broke a more than year-long siege by IS at a major military air base in the northern province of Aleppo.
A group of soldiers broke through IS lines west of the Kweyris airport and reached government troops inside the base, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
State television also reported the breakthrough and broadcast live from outside the airport, hailing the advance as a victory.
It said a "large number of IS terrorists" were killed.
Kweyris has been besieged by IS since spring 2014, but was surrounded by rebel groups before that.
IS fighters are still present in other areas around the base.
© 2015 AFP