UK & World News

  • 18 August 2014, 7:16

UK Troops In Iraq To 'Combat Terrorism'

British troops have been back on the ground in Iraq for the first time since 2009, as the Government said the UK's mission "was not simply humanitarian".

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire regiment were sent to Irbil, as RAF aircraft continued reconnaissance missions to help the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

They were in the capital of Iraq's Kurdistan region for 24 hours to prepare the ground for a possible rescue operation by Chinook helicopters.

But Defence Minister Michael Fallontold pilots and other service members taking part in the UK's general Iraq mission that it was likely to last "weeks and months".

Speaking to troops atRAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, Mr Fallon said the UK wanted to help "combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism".

"There may well now be in the next few weeks and months other ways that we may need to help save life (and) protect people," he said.

"And we are going to need all of you again and the surveillance you are able to give us. We want to help the new government of Iraq and Kurdish forces.

"We want to help them stop the advance of IS and stop them from being terrorised. This is not simply a humanitarian mission.

"We and other countries in Europe are determined to do what we can to help the government of Iraq combat this new and very extreme form of terrorism that IS is promoting."

The address came after David Cameron said British "military prowess" would help push back the threat from IS, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Prime Minister said IS posed a "clear danger" to the UKand it would engage in military and diplomatic efforts to help refugees fleeing massacres.

But senior Church of England bishops accused him of having no "coherent or comprehensive approach" to Islamist extremism.

The Bishop of Leeds used a strongly-worded letter to the PM - sanctioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury - to criticise a "growing silence" over persecuted Christians.

The RAF has deployed the Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft alongside Tornado jets to provide intelligence on IS movements across Iraq.

And security officials say Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have regained some control of the strategically-important Mosul dam.

The peshmerga troops have been aided by several US airstrikes in the region.

Mr Cameron, who has resisted calls to recall Parliament to debate the crisis, ruled out sending in ground troops "to fight or occupy".

But said he said tough action would be needed.

He said the IS aim of creating a "caliphate" in the Middle East stretching close to Europe posed "a clear danger" of violence spreading to the UK's streets.