PARIS – Joining U.S. forces acting in Iraqi skies, France conducted its first airstrike Friday against the militant Islamic State group, destroying a logistics depot that it controlled, the French presidency said.
Rafale fighter jets involved in the mission struck the depot in northeastern Iraq on Friday morning, and the target was “entirely destroyed,” President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement.
“Other operations will follow in the coming days,” the statement said, without elaborating on the type of material at the depot or its exact location.
With the strike, France becomes the first foreign country to publicly add military muscle to United States airstrikes against the group, which has drawn criticism around the world and in a unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution for its barbarity.
U.S. Central Command said Thursday the U.S. military has conducted 176 airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 8. On Wednesday, it hit a militant training camp southeast of Mosul and an ammunition stockpile southeast of Baghdad. It has also conducted a number of strikes this week in Iraq’s Anbar province, near the strategic Haditha Dam.
The French airstrike took place while U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in France for meetings with his counterpart, Gen. Pierre de Villiers. The two men were visiting an American military cemetery in Normandy, on the English Channel, when the French strike took place.
Dempsey, who was told of the attack by de Villiers, praised the French action, saying it hit a target north of Mosul. He did not specify.
“The French were our very first ally and they are there again for us,” Dempsey told reporters traveling with him in Normandy. “It just reminds me why these relationships really matter.”
At a news conference a day earlier, Hollande said France had agreed to “soon” conduct airstrikes requested by Iraq to bolster its fight against the militants who have captured swaths of the country.
He stressed that France wouldn’t go beyond airstrikes in support of the Iraqi military or Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and wouldn’t attack targets in Syria, where the Islamic State group has also captured territory.
French jets on Monday began flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq involving Rafales and an ATL2 surveillance plane, military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron said.