French aircraft carrier sent to target ISIL in Syria

Charles de Gaulle carrier on way to eastern Mediterranean to bolster France’s strikes against ISIL after Paris attacks.

Flight deck crew work around a Super Etendard fighter jet as a French flag flies aboard the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle before its departure from the naval base of Toulon
French jets will be able to launch air strikes on ISIL targets in Syria from the carrier [Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters]

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier has been deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to engage further in the country’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

Le Drian said French jets will be able to launch air strikes on ISIL targets in Syria from the carrier from Monday – the latest military move against the armed group which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more.

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France has stepped up air strikes against Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria, since the day after the Paris attacks of November 13.

The fight against ISIL is “both a war in the shadows and a war on the battlefield”, Le Drian said.

It will involve battling a well-organised force that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, and “an international terrorist movement that is seeking to strike the Western world”, he added.

Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Paris, said the aircraft carrier’s arrival in the area will greatly boost France’s ability to launch air strikes in Syria.

“We have been told there are going to be 26 fighter jets [on the carrier] targeting ISIL targets in Syria,” our correspondent said.

“This is in addition to the 12 other fighter jets that have already been carrying out bombing raids [since the Paris attacks].”

Jamjoom said that public support for French President Francois Hollande was high following the country’s increased air strikes against ISIL. 

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Meanwhile, Le Drian also said on Sunday that a chemical or biological attack “was among the risks” in the wake of the Paris attacks, but that all possible precautions to avoid such a scenario had been taken.

“All the precautions have been taken to avoid this kind of risk,” Le Drian told Europe 1 radio.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls had earlier warned that an attack using chemical or biological weapons was possible.

The government on Saturday issued an authorisation for the army’s pharmacies to distribute an antidote for chemical weapons to civilian emergency services in France, ahead of a major UN climate summit in Paris that will bring together world leaders beginning November 30.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies