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Iraq PM: Assad gave 'approval' to bomb Syria targets

Iraqi airforce helicopters positioned at an army base near Mosul, November 2016 [AFP]

Date of publication: 8 March, 2017

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Iraq carried out a number of airstrikes on IS position inside Syria in February, with Abadi again reiterating his willingness to target the extremist group outside Iraq's borders.

Baghdad will continue to strike Islamic State group militants outside the country's borders, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday, following a number of air raids by the Iraqi air force in neighbouring Syria.

"I will not hesitate to strike terrorist sites in neighbouring countries, if they threaten the security of Iraq," said Abadi, speaking at a conference in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah.

On 24 February, Abadi said that Iraq had conducted a number of airstrikes targeting IS militants inside Syrian territory, specifically in the border town of Albu Kamal, in Deir ez-Zor province.

The Iraqi prime minister said that the airstrikes constituted retaliation for a deadly, IS-perpetrated 16 February car bomb attack in Baghdad that killed more than 40 people.

On Wednesday Abadi said that he had been given the "approval" by Bashar al-Assad to conduct airstrikes on Syrian soil.

"I respect the sovereignty of states, and I have secured the approval of Syria to strike positions (on its territory)," said Abadi, who has previously criticised Gulf states for funding armed groups fighting against the Syrian regime. 

Iraqi forces battling IS militants in Mosul appear to be closing in on a decisive victory having already liberated most Iraqi cities that fell under the extremists groups control over the course of 2014 and 2015.

Before travelling to Sulamaniyah, on Tuesday Abadi visited the Mosul front where he met with Iraqi military personnel.

Speaking in Sulaymaniyah the Iraqi prime minister said that once liberated from IS, the people of the Sunni-majority city of Mosul should be given the opportunity to decide their political future, and be allowed to "govern themselves".

Thousands have been displaced from war-torn Mosul by current advances by Iraqi forces, and with much of the city in ruin, and the resources of humanitarian groups stretched, it remains unclear when many will be able to return.

Figures close to Abadi have previously said that the Iraqi premier is considering the appointment of a military governor - not affiliated with any of the country's political parties - to Mosul once IS has been routed in the city.

Such a measure would be aimed at maintaining calm and prevent the division of Nineveh governorate between rival groups taking part in Mosul operations and their political backers. 

Agencies contributed to this report

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