Canada announced Friday plans to send fighter jets to Iraq to participate in airstrikes on strongholds of the Islamic State group, becoming the latest country to join the U.S.-led coalition, BBC News reported. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would send fighter jets, refueling aircraft and surveillance planes to combat the militant group formerly known as either ISIL or ISIS during an address to the House of Commons.
“We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL. Specifically, its ability to either engage in military movements of scale, or to operate bases in the open,” Harper said, adding that Canada’s operations in Iraq will continue for six months.
“In addition, we are extending the deployment in a noncombat role of the up to 69 members of the Canadian Army advising and assisting security forces in Iraq,” the prime minister said. “We will strike ISIL where and only where Canada has the clear support of the government of that country. At present this is only true in Iraq. If it were to become the case in Syria, then we will participate in air strikes against ISIL in that country also.”
The Canadian Parliament is scheduled to debate a motion authorizing the airstrikes Monday. If it is passed, then Canada will join a number of other countries -- such as Australia, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.K. -- that are already a part of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.
The U.S. and its allies have been targeting strongholds of the Islamic State group and the al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria for almost two weeks. And the U.S.-led forces have been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq since August. A number of European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq, but have so far refrained from doing so in Syria.
Meanwhile, intense fighting between ISIS militants and Kurdish forces has continued near the Syrian border town of Kobane, Al Jazeera reported. More than 160,000 civilians, most of them Kurds fleeing the advance of the Islamic State group, have crossed the border into Turkey in recent weeks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly said.