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Dhaka Tribune

UK launches first Syria air strikes

Update : 03 Dec 2015, 05:13 AM

RAF Tornado jets have carried out their first air strikes against so-called Islamic State in Syria, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The strikes came hours after MPs voted in favour of UK action in Syria.

They backed the action by 397 votes to 223 after a 10-hour debate in the House of Commons.

Four Tornado jets took off from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, shortly after the vote.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the sorties had returned from the "first offensive operation over Syria and have conducted strikes".

Two of the four Tornados arrived back in Cyprus just over three hours after they left the base, landing shortly before 03:00 GMT.

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said the pair of Tornados had left RAF Akrotiri with three 500lb Paveway bombs each and returned to base without those weapons.

The Ministry of Defence is expected to give details of their targets later on Thursday, he added.

The RAF was already carrying out operations against IS in Iraq.

Following the vote, Prime Minister David Cameron said MPs had "taken the right decision to keep the country safe" but opponents said the move was a mistake.

A total of 66 Labour MPs sided with the government as Mr Cameron secured a larger than expected Commons majority.

The first pair of Tornados took off from RAF Akrotiri just over an hour after MPs authorised military action against Islamic State targets in Syria.

We watched the orange/blue glow from their engine afterburners disappear into the night sky. Each aircraft was carrying three 500lb Paveway bombs.

Less than an hour later, they were followed by a second pair loaded with the same weapons.

The Ministry of Defence has not given any details about their mission, but has confirmed these were the first British jets to carry out air strikes over Syria.

The use of bombs rather than the Brimstone missile suggests they were hitting static rather than moving targets - possibly infrastructure.

We waited for the first pair of Tornados to return to base. They landed after just over three hours in the air. As they taxied on the runway, it was clear to see their bombs were missing.

The relatively short mission suggests the Tornados had already been given specific targets before they left.

Welcoming the Commons result, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain was "safer because of the actions taken by MPs today".

He added: "Military strikes alone won't help Syria, won't keep us safe from Daesh. But this multi-strand approach will."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that the case for war "does not stack up" - but his party was split, with senior Labour figures, including members of the shadow cabinet voting with the government after they were given a free vote.

The 66 MPs who backed military action was equivalent to 29% of the parliamentary party.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was applauded by MPs from across the House, particularly on the Conservative benches, when he urged his own side to "confront this evil" posed by Islamic State, who he said "held our democracy in contempt".

In an impassioned speech, Mr Benn said the international community was "faced by fascists and what we know about fascists is that they must be defeated". While there were "rarely perfect circumstances to deploy military forces", he said "the threat is now" and the UK must rise to the challenge.


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