UK

IS conflict: RAF bombs Saddam palace in north Iraq

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Media captionMinistry of Defence footage shows the attack by UK and coalition forces on the palace built for Saddam Hussein in Mosul.

A palace built by Saddam Hussein which was being used as a training centre for the Islamic State militant group has been bombed by UK and coalition forces.

The Ministry of Defence said the former dictator's complex in Mosul, north Iraq, was a "major" IS HQ and training centre for foreign recruits.

RAF Tornados used guided bombs in what Defence Secretary Michael Fallon called "emphatic" airstrikes on Monday.

Mosul, Iraq's second city, has been under IS control since June 2014.

The UK is part of a US-led international coalition conducting airstrikes on IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

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The Ministry of Defence has released details of a series of operations over the past week - including the bombing of a "safe house" for foreign fighters in Iraq, and IS "terrorist strong points" close to Syria's border with Turkey.

Two Tornado jets dropped the largest guided bombs they use, the Enhanced Paveway III, on Saddam's palace, a statement said.

'Successful mission'

"Extensive surveillance" of the complex, located next to the river Tigris, found the main palace building was being used as accommodation and a meeting venue for foreign IS recruits, while outbuildings were used for training, internal security and "repression", the MoD said.

Seven nations were involved in the attack on the complex on Monday afternoon, with initial indications suggesting the mission was successful, it added.

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who was killed in 2006, had 50 luxury mansions built across Iraq during his 24 years in power.

The palace in Mosul, which featured man-made waterfalls and underground bunkers, was used by the US Army as a personnel base during the Iraq War.

Image copyright RAF
Image caption The complex in north Iraq was used as a training centre for foreign IS recruits, the MoD said

Details of the latest air strikes against IS, also known as Daesh, were given as the defence secretary visited the crews involved, who are based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Mr Fallon said: "Daesh has been losing followers and territory for months, and emphatic strikes like this show that we and the coalition will not waver.

"Daesh fighters, both foreign and home-grown, can see that they are targets inside this cult."

UK MPs approved UK air strikes in Iraq against IS in September 2014.

Mr Fallon said at the time that the parliamentary vote followed a request for help from the UN by the Iraqi government.

In December 2015, the UK also launched air strikes targeting IS in Syria after MPs voted for action.