UK to train Syrian opposition to fight IS group: minister

26th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain will train Syrian "moderate opposition forces" in Turkey and other regional countries as part of international efforts to fight Islamic State militants, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced on Thursday.

About 75 military trainers and staff will provide training in areas such as the use of small arms, infantry tactics and medical skills, as part of a US-led training programme that is expected to begin within weeks.

"Defeating ISIL ultimately lies with local forces and we are helping to create effective ground forces in Syria, as well as in Iraq, so they can take the fight to ISIL," Fallon said, using an acronym used to refer to the IS group.

Britain is already training Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Iraq, and in December, Fallon said the numbers of personnel deployed was expected to be in "the very low hundreds".

The Syrian forces will be trained in Turkey and other regional countries that are part of the international coalition against IS militants, who last year took over swathes of Iraq and Syria and announced a "caliphate".

"Britain remains at the forefront of coalition military efforts to support the Iraqi government in their fight against ISIL," Fallon said in a statement to parliament.

"This effective and closely coordinated activity in conjunction with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces has largely stalled the terrorists' advances.

"But ISIL must be defeated in both Iraq and Syria."

Fallon also announced that Britain would be sending two Sentinel aircraft to the region to provide surveillance of IS activity in Iraq, and track the laying of bombs.

British Tornado jets and Reaper remotely controlled aircraft have so far conducted 194 strikes over Iraq, although the government has declined to join strikes in Syria.

Britain joined the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein, but Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out sending combat troops back.

© 2015 AFP

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