The British Air Force is taking the lead in air strikes against the Islamic state group in Iraq, the first time a British service has conducted air strikes in Iraq since the start of the campaign.
Key points:The Royal Air Force says the UK’s Tornados are providing support to Iraqi forces, while the Tornado jets are assisting British forces on the groundThe UK’s Tornado jets have been flying missions against IS since JanuaryPrime Minister David Cameron said in a statement that he was “satisfied that the RAF’s Tornadoes have been providing support for Iraqi forces and Iraqi ground forces”.
The Tornado attack was announced in a tweet by the RAF on Friday, saying it was “the first direct British engagement with IS”.
The UK has been providing air support to Iraq’s air campaign in support of the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces fighting the group in the country’s north.
Iraqi forces have suffered heavy casualties in the recent weeks, and the coalition has been pushing back against the group.
The coalition has also been conducting air strikes on IS targets in Syria and Iraq.UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said it was vital for the UK to support Iraqi forces to defeat IS.
Iraqi military officials have said the group has captured more than 80% of the country and that it is losing ground.
But the British government has not been directly involved in the air campaign.
Last week, Downing Street said the UK was providing “support for Iraqi ground troops” to fight the Islamic group.
In January, British officials said the Tornado aircraft would provide “support to Iraqi ground commanders” in the fight against IS.
“The Tornados will also be supporting Iraqi forces as they take the fight to IS,” a statement from the Ministry of Defence read.
In recent days, the Tornados have carried out missions in Iraq.
On Thursday, Tornado jets carried out two bombing runs over the Iraqi town of al-Shirqat, which is home to the countrys main oil refinery.
They were flying over the refinery to take out a tank, and then later carried out a strike against the town’s main oil-export facility.
Two British pilots also carried out an airstrike in the town of Bashiqa, about 25km (15 miles) south of the refinery, according to the statement.
Iraqis also say the UK is helping to train Iraqi forces in the battle against IS in the north.
The UK is not the only nation to take part in the campaign against IS, with US and UK military officials also providing support.
The Iraqi government said it had been helping the US, UK and France with their air strikes, but the coalition said it did not have a role in the US-led air campaign and that the Iraqi air force was capable of carrying out strikes independently.