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UK to extend Iraqi air campaign against IS for another year

The UK will continue its air campaign in Iraq until at least early 2017, says defence secretary
The UK's Tornado jets have capabilities particularly valued by the US and other coalition allies, according to UK's defence secretary (AFP)

The UK will extend its air campaign against the Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq by a year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC from Baghdad on Tuesday.

The UK's Tornado fighter jets were due to continue strikes until March 2016, when they would have been taken out of service, but will now continue until early 2017, Fallon said.

"The Tornado squadrons have proved their worth in the air campaign because of the precision weapons they have and because of the reconnaissance and surveillance that they carry out when they're not striking," Fallon told the BBC.

The jets, he said, have particular capabilities that the US and other allies in the US-led campaign value.

In the past week, the US-led coalition reportedly has conducted dozens of air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Last Friday, the US hit the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front to defend Syrian rebels - thought to be part of a new US training programme - whose headquarters were under attack.

The UK's parliament has only backed air strikes in Iraq, not Syria.