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IRAQ

Iraq: France pledges ‘support’ to fight jihadists

France has pledged to back the forces fighting Islamist militants in the Iraq on the same day US president Barack Obama authoritized air strikes against jihadists to prevent "a genocide"

Iraq: France pledges 'support' to fight jihadists
President François Hollande has pledged support to fight Islamists in Iraq. Photo: AFP

French President Francois Hollande on Thursday pledged his country's "support" to forces battling Islamist militants in Iraq amid growing Western concern over an advance by Islamic State fighters.

"The president confirmed that France was available to support forces engaged in this battle," Hollande's office said in a statement, after the French leader spoke about Iraq by telephone with the head of the Kurdistan
Regional Government, Massud Barzani.

Hollande did not specify what form the "support" could take.

Hollande and Barzani "expressed their willingness to cooperate to block the offensive carried out by the Islamic State in the north-east of Iraq," the statement added.

At France's request, the UN Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting on Iraq later Thursday, after Islamist militants seized the country's largest Christian town.

IS, which proclaimed a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq in late June, moved into Qaraqosh and other towns overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish peshmerga troops, residents said.

Religious leaders said IS militants have forced 100,000 Christians to flee and have occupied churches, removing crosses and destroying manuscripts.

"The persecution by this terrorist group of religious minorities, in particular Christians and Yazidis, is an extremely serious crime," the statement from Hollande's office said.

He reiterated that France was prepared to "offer asylum to those people who want to leave Iraq and who have a solid connection to our country".

Hollande said that France would push the UN Security Council to "mobilise the international community against terrorism in Iraq so that help and protection can be offered to all people in danger".

Obama authorizes air strikes

President Barack Obama said Thursday he had authorized US air strikes on Iraq and humanitarian supply drops to prevent a “genocide” by Islamist extremists against minorities.

“We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide,” Obama said, referring to the attacks against the besieged Yazidi minority, thousands of whom are trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq.

“I therefore authorized targeted air strikes if necessary to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege and protect the civilians trapped there,” Obama said.

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IRAQ

Danish soldiers leave Iraq amid Middle East tensions

100 Danish soldiers arrived in Kuwait on Thursday after Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced that they were to temporarily relocate from the al-Asad base in Iraq.

Danish soldiers leave Iraq amid Middle East tensions
A file photo showing Danish Minister of Defence Trine Bramsen meeting military personnel. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

The al-Asad base was one of two military bases hit by Iranian missile strikes earlier this week. The strikes were carried out by Iran in retaliation for the killing of its major general Qassem Soleimani by the United States last week in Baghdad.

Denmark’s defence minister Trine Bramsen wrote on social media that the soldiers had landed in Kuwait. That was confirmed by the Danish armed forces (Forsvaret) on its website.

The 100 soldiers were transported to Kuwait by a Danish Hercules transport aircraft.

“Our soldiers have landed in Kuwait. Their safety is the first priority. I hope they can continue the fight against Isil [terror group Islamic State (Isis), ed.] soon,” Bramsen tweeted.

The announcement from the Danish government came after Iran attacked two military bases in Iraq on Wednesday night, including the al-Asad base, where 133 Danish soldiers are stationed. Danish personnel at the base are involved in training Iraqi forces.

The Danish government has taken the view that, under current circumstances, its personnel cannot continue the work in Iraq.

“I am pleased that the relocation has taken place quickly and on schedule. And I have great respect for the soldiers still at the base, where they continue to carry out important duties,” Bramsen said via the Danish armed forces’ website.

In addition to the 133 soldiers at the al-Asad base, Denmark also has eight staff officers at Nato's Mission Iraq in Baghdad. The eight personnel have also been temporarily moved to Kuwait.

READ ALSO: Denmark parliament to discuss presence of soldiers in Iraq

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