September 22, 2014 / 3:58 PM / 5 years ago

Australia says jets to help with air strikes against Islamic State

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston speaks during a news conference in Baghdad September 22, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Australia’s defense minister David Johnston said on Monday during a visit to Baghdad that his country’s fighter jets will play a part in U.S.-led air strikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq.

Johnston told reporters that up to eight Super Hornet aircraft will participate in a U.S.-led coalition “delivering air strikes to degrade, disrupt and ultimately seek to destroy ISIL (Islamic State)”.

Australian Special Forces will be serving as advisers to Iraqi forces, Johnston said after a meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Johnston did not elaborate on whether Australia’s fighter jets would carry out air strikes. Their mission will include “the use of airpower”, he said, without commenting further.

Asked about the Australian military advisers, Johnston said his country’s special forces would “assist in the logistical support of the Iraqi forces”. He gave no further information.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Sept. 14 that a 600-strong force comprising some 400 airforce personnel and 200 special forces soldiers would be deployed to a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates to help fight Islamic State. Abbott said Australia was also providing an aerial refueling aircraft and an early warning and control aircraft.

A number of countries have responded to U.S. President Barack Obama’s call to join a coalition against Islamic State. France has started air strikes against the group in Iraq.

Obama is leading an effort to form a coalition of Western allies and Gulf Arab states to take on the extremist group, whose savage methods have included beheading two American journalists and a British aid worker.

Reporting by Ned Parker; Editing by Louise Ireland

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