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In Iraq, Hollande says IS battle prevents attacks at home

Update: January, 03/2017 - 11:00
Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani (right) and French president Francois Hollande give a joint press conference in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq, on Monday. Western support for military action against Islamic State jihadists is key to preventing attacks at home, French President Francois Hollande said in Iraq, where yet another bombing killed dozens. - AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

ARBIL, Iraq  Western support for military action against the Islamic State group is key to preventing attacks at home, French President Francois Hollande said on Monday in Iraq, where yet another bombing killed dozens.

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden car on a square in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighbourhood, killing at least 32 people in the latest attack on the Iraqi capital claimed by IS.

Later the interior ministry said jihadist gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a police station in the city of Samarra north of Baghdad, sparking clashes.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, but IS said it was also behind the Samarra attack.

France, one of the most active members of the US-led coalition fighting the Sunni extremist group, is particularly concerned over the return of a large contingent of French jihadists from Syria and Iraq.

"Taking action against terrorism here in Iraq is also preventing acts of terrorism on our own soil," he said at a base where French soldiers have been training elite Iraqi forces.

Hollande, the only major Western head of state to have visited Baghdad since the coalition was set up in 2014, stressed that supporting Iraq was one of the surest ways of securing Europe.

Of European countries targeted by attacks claimed or inspired by IS, France has been the worst hit, but there have also been attacks in Belgium and Germany.

Besides the defeated jihadists expected to return to Europe, radicalised children who grew up in the "caliphate" IS proclaimed in 2014 are also seen as ticking bombs.

"We will have to deal with the issue of the return of foreign fighters... who committed crimes, who brought their families with them, including in some cases very young children," Hollande said.

Since it joined the United States in the coalition in September 2014, France says its warplanes have conducted 5,700 sorties, around 1,000 strikes and destroyed more than 1,700 targets.

’Before summer’

France has 14 Rafale warplanes taking part in coalition operations from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

It also has 500 soldiers training and advising elite Iraqi forces and CAESAR artillery vehicles stationed south of Mosul to support ongoing operations to retake the city.

Hollande met Iraqi President Fuad Masum, a Kurd, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, from the largest Shiite political bloc, and called for reconciliation and unity after IS is defeated.

He then flew to the northern city of Arbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, where he met local leader Massud Barzani.

He said just before leaving Iraq that he was told that the battle to retake Mosul, the last major jihadist stronghold in the country, could last several more months.

"It was confirmed to us that we could possibly achieve this goal in spring, in any case before summer," he said.

Hollande added that the focus would then move to Raqa, IS’s other major bastion, in neighbouring Syria.

"If Daesh is eradicated in Iraq but remains in Syria, we know full well that acts will be carried out here in the Middle East but also on our own soil in France, in Europe," he said. — AFP

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