U.K. Sends 2 More Jets to Cyprus to Strike Islamic State

Britain is to send two more fighter jets to its Royal Air Force base in Cyprus to support airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.

The planes add to the six Tornados already taking part in the mission, Prime Minister David Cameron said after arriving at the base in Akrotiri late today on an unannounced visit.

RAF jets have been targeting Islamic State positions since British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Sept. 26 to join the U.S. and its European and Arab allies in carrying out strikes against the Sunni Muslim extremists. The group, also known as ISIL, has declared a caliphate on territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

U.K. pilots have “already flown a dozen sorties and carried out strikes on four of those missions, successfully hitting eight targets and helping Iraqi forces hold territory but also push back ISIL too,” Cameron said. “We want to make sure that we can keep up this tempo in the days ahead, so we will deploy a further two Tornados to Akrotiri in the next 24 hours.”

The U.K. will also extend the life of the squadron of Tornados at the base by a further year, Cameron said. It had been scheduled for retirement in April.

The U.K. is limiting its strikes to Iraq, where the government has requested assistance. Cameron refrained from seeking approval for strikes in Syria because there was no political consensus for it amid doubts over whether it would mean cooperating with President Bashar al-Assad, though he said there was a strategic case for it as well as a legal basis.

The U.S. and its allies have carried out hundreds of strikes in Iraq and Syria since beginning their bombing campaign in August.

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