British warplanes take off for Iraq
British warplanes flew their first mission over Iraq on Saturday since being given parliamentary authority to strike at Islamic State jihadists, the Ministry of Defence in London said.
Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 combat jets, armed with Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, took off from Britain's RAF Akrotiri base on Cyprus.
In an operation that began before dawn, the jets were loaded with Paveways before taking off from the Mediterranean island.
British lawmakers on Friday voted overwhelmingly to join the US-led air strikes in northern Iraq.
US bombing in Syria has disrupted the IS group's lucrative oil-pumping operations, the Pentagon has said.
Six Tornados have been based on Cyprus since last month. They have been conducting reconnaissance missions over Iraq, but their role will now change to striking IS targets following parliament's vote.
The vote followed a formal request for help from the Iraqi government.
"We can confirm that, following parliamentary approval given yesterday, RAF Tornados continue to fly over Iraq and are now ready to be used in an attack role as and when appropriate targets are identified," a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.
"For operational security reasons we will not be providing a running commentary on movements; we will provide an update on activity when it is appropriate to do so."
Parliament's lower House of Commons voted by a majority of 524 to 43 after the main political parties all approved military action.
IS's brutal abuses against civilians, rival fighters and Arab and Western hostages, as well as its success in recruiting Western members, have triggered international alarm.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday the RAF was there to "play our part.
"We are one part of a large international coalition," he said during a visit to Didcot, southern England.
"But the crucial part of that coalition is that it is led by the Iraqi government, the legitimate government of Iraq, and its security forces. We are there to play our part and help deal with this appalling terrorist organisation."
Besides the Tornados, the RAF also has a Rivet Joint spy plane in the region which is stepping up surveillance efforts to identify potential targets.
© 2014 AFP