PARIS, Feb 23 (Reuters) - France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has started military operations against Islamic State in Iraq, a French army source said on Monday.
“The carrier and its naval group has officially started missions as part of its Chammal operation in Iraq,” the source told Reuters in a reference to the name of the mission.
A second source said the carrier would be engaged for several weeks.
Le Figaro newspaper, which is accompanying Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian ahead of an official announcement he is set to make on the carrier on Monday, said the first reconnaissance and possible air strikes in Iraq took place in the morning.
France was the first country to join the U.S.-led coalition in air strikes in Iraq against Islamic State insurgents, who have also taken control of large parts of neighbouring Syria during the course of the civil war there. However, it has ruled out striking the group in Syria.
The carrier is accompanied by an attack submarine, several frigates, including a British anti-submarine frigate and a refueling ship.
France has nine fighter jets, a maritime patrol aircraft and a refuelling plane at its base in the United Arab Emirates as part of its Iraq mission. It also operates six Mirage fighter jets from Jordan.
With the Charles de Gaulle, there are now more than 3,000 French military personnel involved in the operation. (Reporting By Marine Pennetier and John Irish; Editing by Andrew Callus)