RAF jets strike first IS targets in Iraq

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Media captionRAF Tornados have flown sorties since Saturday but this is the first time they have carried out strikes, as Jonathan Beale reports

RAF jets have carried out their first strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq, attacking a "heavy weapon position" and an armed pick-up truck.

The Ministry of Defence said the attacks were in support of Kurdish units in the north-west of the country.

The strikes - by two GR4 Tornados - came four days after Parliament approved military action, and were said to be "successful".

About 40 nations are targeting IS, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria.

Information from Kurdish sources suggests the RAF strikes had helped the Kurds retake an "important border crossing" at Rabia near Syria, said the BBC's Clive Myrie in Irbil, northern Iraq.

Heavy fighting was reported on both sides of the border between Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi Kurdish troops are said to have suffered heavy casualties in recapturing Rabia, as IS fighters were trying to dislodge Syrian Kurdish forces on the other side of the border.

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Media captionDefence secretary Michael Fallon : "RAF jets assisted Kurdish troops under attack"

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said both Tornados had "returned safely to their base", RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

He said they were in action in support of the Iraqi government.

The MoD said the aircraft were on an "armed reconnaissance mission" when they were asked to help Kurdish troops in north-west Iraq.

It said the Kurds were under attack from IS - also known as Isil and Isis.

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Image caption The RAF's targets included an armed pick-up truck
Image copyright Other

"On arriving overhead, the RAF patrol, using their Litening III targeting pod, identified an Isil heavy weapon position which was engaging Kurdish ground forces," an MoD statement said.

"One Paveway IV guided bomb was used to attack the Isil position.

"Following this engagement, the patrol identified an Isil armed pick-up truck in the same area and conducted an attack on the vehicle using a Brimstone missile.

"An initial assessment indicates that both precision strikes were successful."

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain would not be "panicked" into dropping bombs in Iraq by reports that militants were advancing.

He said the RAF would carefully target IS, as hitting civilians would have the "opposite of the effect we are intending".

Meanwhile, at a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference in Birmingham, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Tory and Lib Dem cabinet ministers were agreed that the UK would have to confront IS in Syria as well as Iraq.

He said: "There was absolute unity around the cabinet table, including the Liberal Democrats as well, all basically saying the same thing - that the complete package is ultimately having to deal with Isil, not Isil in one place."

On Friday, Parliament voted by 524 votes to 43 for UK air strikes against IS in Iraq.

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