France to step up air patrols in Iraq: minister

5th October 2014, Comments 0 comments

France will "increase" the rate of its air patrols over Iraq against the Islamic State group, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday.

Islamic State (IS) "is not a terrorist group, it is clearly a terrorist army. There are 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 combatants that are properly armed," he told radio station RTL.

"We will increase the rate of our patrols," he said, adding that "with nine Rafale (aircraft) in the zone, we can carry out two patrols per day".

France has so far carried out two air strikes on IS positions in Iraq since joining the US-led coalition last month.

The minister would not be drawn on whether France would follow the United States in carrying out air strikes in Syria, saying only that France would continue its assistance to the Free Syrian Army, which opposes both IS and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"We are providing them with the means to act," he said.

© 2014 AFP

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