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French jets set off for rare mission against IS in Iraq's Mosul

Jets will carry out average of one strike every three minutes in Mosul, where US-led coalition says 13 IS leaders have been killed this week
War planes are prepared on the deck of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier (AFP)

French fighter jets took off from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on Friday for an operation against the Islamic State group in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, an officer said.

Eight jets took off from the carrier in the eastern Mediterranean on Friday morning, an AFP photographer on the flight deck reported.

The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is on its third mission since February 2015 in support of the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria. 

France's RTL radio station said the mission would see 24 aircraft carry out an average of one strike every three minutes.

The deployment came hours after the US-led coalition of which France is part announced the death of an IS leader in one of its strikes in Mosul.

A coalition spokesperson said on Friday morning that air strikes had killed 18 IS leaders during the past three days, 13 of them in Mosul.

One of these was reportedly a fighter known as Abu Janat, the man thought to be behind the group’s chemical weapons strategy.

However, the spokesperson said that between 3,000 and 4,500 IS fighters remain on the ground in Mosul.

IS seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground from the militants.

Iraqi forces have for months been readying for an assault to retake Iraq's second-largest city, with coalition air support and backing from some of the 4,565 US troops fighting on the ground.

French President Francois Hollande announced in July that the Charles de Gaulle, which carries 24 Rafale jets, would be sent back to the region for bombing raids on IS targets.

The vessel's latest mission is planned to end in late October, according to Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition

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