Australian military jets to support Iraq strikes: PM

AFP , Wednesday 1 Oct 2014

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday his country's military jets were set to join the United States in its war against Islamic State jihadists through support flights over Iraq.

Australia deployed some 600 troops and several aircraft to the United Arab Emirates in mid-September as it geared up to join the US-led international coalition.

"We have not yet made a final decision to commit our forces to combat but Australian aircraft from today will start flying over Iraq in support of allied operations," Abbott told parliament.

"Ours are support operations, not strike missions. Australian air strikes await final clearances from the Iraqi government and a further decision by our own."

The RAAF's E-7A Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft and a refueler aircraft "will operate over Iraq in support of US and other coalition aircraft", Abbott added.

Australia joined the US in an international effort to transport weapons to Kurdish forces fighting IS extremists in northern Iraq. It also conducted humanitarian air drops in besieged Iraqi towns.

Abbott has repeatedly said that the violence in Iraq was "reaching out" to Australia, and has warned that some 60 citizens are already fighting alongside jihadists in the conflict overseas.

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