French fighter jets hit Islamic State targets in Iraq and the US strikes in Syria, as British MPs debate joining a military coalition against the jihadi group.
David Cameron will open a debate on joining the US-led campaign in Iraq at 10:30am – but meanwhile the international action against the Islamic State group continues.
US strikes were reported to have hit Islamic State targets in Syria’s Deir al-Zor region, near the city al-Mayadin.
French strikes in Iraq followed the beheading of a French tourist by militants in Algeria – an act that it was claimed was retaliation for France joining the US-led campaign against Islamic State.
On Thursday Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said he had credible intelligence that Islamic State networks in Iraq were plotting to attack US and French subway trains – though the veracity of his claim has been questioned.
Senior French and US officials said they had no evidence of the specific threat, but that security had been heightened on public transport networks.
Further, the US said a masked Islamic State militant who appeared in recent beheading videos has now been identified. The fighter appears to have a British accent and is known as “Jihadi John”.
The principal work in identifying the man, who has a London accent, has been carried out by British government agencies.
On Thursday the EU’s anti-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove said the number of European who had joined Islamist fighters in Syria now totals more than 3,000.
Britain is expected to give its backing for air strikes in Iraq and all three main party leaders have put their support behind such action. In doing so, Britain will join a coalition of European and Arab countries fighting the Islamic State.
Country’s supporting the US-led coalition include:
Saudi Crown Prince Salman is reported to have been among eight Saudi pilots who have taken part in strikes in Syria. On the first night of strikes Saudi Arabia sent four fighter jets, a security source has said.
Saudi Arabia is a crucial ally in the campaign, especially as the predominantly Sunni Muslim country’s action could counter accusation that the coalition is a western crusade against Islam.
The UAE’s first woman pilot commanded a UAE mission on the first night of strikes in Syria, leading a team of four F-16 fighters.
The United States said Saudi Arabia and the UAE also took part in the third night of air strikes, but did not spell out the scale of their operations.
In the opening stages of the campaign Bahrain sent two fighters.
Qatar, which is home to the US Central Command headquarters, is understood to have contributed one Mirage jet which did not take part in an attack.
The close US ally has said several of its jets have struck militant sites along its northern border.
France carried out its first air strike on 19 September, targeting an Islamic State logistics depot in Mosul. It has carried out reconnaissance missions and supported Iraqi ground troops in Baghdad. French special forces are also training Kurdish peshmerga forces in Iraq, to whom France has also supplied weapons.
Francois Hollande has ruled out joining strikes in Syria, though the under-fire French president’s comments were contradicted on Thursday by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who said the “question is on the table”.
Eight F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets are being sent by Australia to assist the campaign, and special forces are to act as advisors to Iraqi forces.
It has seen a high number of its citizens joining the ranks of Islamic State, and because of this Belgian officials say it is in their interests to participate in coalition efforts against the Islamic State group. The country is set to offer six F-16 fighter jets, as well as 120 pilots and support staff and cargo planes.
The Dutch government said on Wednesday it would deploy six F-16 fighters and as many as 380 military personnel to target the Islamic State group in Iraq.
Another close US ally, Turkey has largely kept quiet but it appears to be softening its stance on acting against Islamic State. President Tayyip Erdogan indicated on Tuesday that military and logistical support could be provided.
In recent weeks Islamic State fighters have moved closer to areas of Turkey’s border with Syria.
You can watch the parliamentary debate on British intervention in Iraq live on the Channel 4 News website from 10:30am