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RAF Akrotiri ready to strike

A Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 aircraft, flown in from Britain, stands on the tarmac at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus

By Staff Reporter

BRITAIN’S parliament approved air strikes against Islamic State (IS) insurgents in Iraq by a decisive margin yesterday, paving the way for the Royal Air Force to join U.S.-led military action with immediate effect.

Six Cyprus-based Tornado GR4 fighter-bombers were on standby to take part in initial sorties after Prime Minister David Cameron recalled parliament from recess to back military action following a formal request from the Iraqi government.

He told MPs before the vote not to expect a “shock and awe” air campaign, while his office said a small number of service people could be sent to Iraq within hours of the vote to guide air strikes and, possibly, to train Iraqi and Kurdish regional peshmerga forces battling IS militant forces.

The 524-43 vote means Britain will embark on its first military campaign since it conducted air strikes in 2011 on behalf of Libyan rebels who toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and join an international coalition led by the United States.

“There are numerous RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft at Akrotiri that have been flying intelligence gathering missions for a number of weeks now,” UK Ministry of Defence sources told the Cyprus Mail last night.

“The Tornado is also a highly capable precision strike aircraft. With parliament’s backing they can now be used in an attack role as and when appropriate targets are identified.”

The MoD sources added that in terms of timing, these aircraft can obviously respond at very short notice “although for operational security reasons we will not provide a running commentary on movements or preparations.”

“We will provide any updates on activity when it is appropriate to do so,” the MoD official said.

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