NZ to send non-combat troops to Iraq

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New Zealand PM John Key (Jan 2015)Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Key said the risk of a stronger IS outweighed the risk of encouraging reprisal attacks

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has announced plans to send 143 non-combat troops to Iraq to help the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

Mr Key told parliament most personnel would be based with Australian troops in Taji Camp north of Baghdad.

He said New Zealand had "an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally".

Authorities said last year that between 35 and 40 New Zealanders were on a terror watch list.

Some of them had travelled to Syria to fight with IS while others were involved in funding extremism or radicalising other people.

Mr Key said the new mission, likely to begin in May, would help train Iraqi special forces and followed a request from the Iraqi government. The deployment would be reviewed after nine months and would not last longer than two years.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Iraq has asked for further foreign assistance in tackling the IS militants

He said IS was a threat to stability in the Middle East and locally, and that 62 countries were already united in a coalition against its "outrageous actions".

New Zealand had already contributed NZ$14.5m ($10.9m; £7m) in humanitarian aid, he said, but as "a country that stands up for its values" it was right to take further action.

He said that the risk of IS becoming stronger outweighed the risk of reprisal attacks on New Zealand.

New Zealand will also appoint a new ambassador for counter terrorism, Mr Key announced.

Last December, New Zealand passed new anti-terrorism laws aimed at countering the domestic threat posed by overseas extremist groups.

It permits video surveillance for 24 hours without a warrant and the cancellation of passports for up to three years for those suspected of involvement in terrorism.