Britain sends drones to fly surveillance missions over Syria

Reuters , Tuesday 21 Oct 2014

Smoke from a fire rises following a strike in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, as seen from a hilltop on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Tuesday, Oct. 21 (Photo: AP)

Britain said on Tuesday it was authorising armed and unarmed drones to fly surveillance missions over Syria "very shortly" to gather intelligence on Islamic State (IS) militants.

Michael Fallon, the defence minister, said both Reaper and Rivet Joint drones would fly over Syria as part of "efforts to protect our national security from the terrorist threat emanating from there."

But in a written statement to parliament, he stressed that Reapers would not be allowed to use their weapons in Syria, something he said would require "further permission." A defence ministry spokeswoman was unable to immediately clarify whether that meant ministerial approval or a vote in parliament.

Fallon announced last week that Britain was deploying armed Reaper drones to the Middle East to conduct air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq.

Parliament voted to approve air strikes against IS in Iraq last month, after a request from the Iraqi government, but Britain isn't conducting air strikes in Syria. It has previously said such strikes would require fresh parliamentary approval.

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