UK jets destroy Daesh cells in Iraq

British Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jets have destroyed two groups of Daesh fighters in northern Iraq, as military operations against the terrorist group intensify in retaliation for a deadly suicide bombing in Baghdad.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that two RAF Typhoon FGR4s used laser-guided bombs to strike the Daesh militants, who had taken refuge in caves near Bayji, a city 200 km north of the Iraqi capital.

The MoD said the bombing — the first by British aircraft against Daesh cells since October — is part of efforts to hinder the terror group’s efforts at regrouping in its former heartlands of Iraq and Syria. The ministry did not provide details of casualties.

An airstrike by the US-led military coalition last week killed Abu Yasir, Daesh’s most senior leader in Iraq.

The recent rise in bombing activity comes after Baghdad endured its worst suicide bombing for several years, with at least 32 people killed and over 110 wounded on Jan. 21. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said the “cowardly” attack was a security breach and sacked several senior officials.

The presence of Western troops in Iraq has begun to dwindle in recent years despite the enduring threat from Daesh.

Some 100 British troops have been deployed in the country since 2015 to train and support national security forces as part of the international coalition to counter Daesh.

The bulk of coalition forces have come from the US, which last month cut troop numbers in Iraq by half to 2,500.

Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer, told Arab News that the recent resurgence in military activity by coalition forces “shows that Daesh hasn’t gone away.”

He said: “In reality, they’ve been using the lockdowns to strengthen their positions — not just on the ground in Iraq, Syria, Africa and elsewhere — but also through their online support base.”

Ingram added: “The RAF are using precision-guided munitions, which are highly targeted and massively reduce the risk of collateral damage. This relies not only on fantastic flying skills but also on intelligence with sufficient fidelity to target specific caves, buildings and vehicles with pinpoint accuracy.”

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