France begins spy flights over Iraq

ISIS in parts of Pakistan and India

(AFP)- France has joined Britain in carrying out reconnaissance flights in support of the U.S. air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, the defense minister said on Monday.

“This very morning, the first reconnaissance flights will be carried out,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told French troops, including pilots. According to the minister, the flights are being carried out in agreement with the Iraqi authorities.

Shortly afterwards, two French Rafale fighter jets took off from the base in the Gulf, an Agence France-Presse correspondent reported.

The announcment came as French President Francois Hollande called on Monday for a global reponse to counter ISIS militants, saying the group posed a security threat the world over.

Meanwhile, Paris is hosting an international conference aimed at hammering out a strategy to deal with ISIS, which has seized swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The conference has been given added urgency by the beheading of a third Western hostage, British aid worker David Haines, on Saturday.

According to AFP, Britain had already been conducting extensive surveillance flights over Iraq from its regional base in Cyprus. Britain has not, however, engaged in aerial bombardment.

Le Drian said France views ISIS as a serious threat.

“France stands ready at a time that is decisive for its security – because it is also France’s security that is threatened by this… pseudo-Islamic State,” Le Drian said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Fuad Masum Monday urged rapid air strikes against ISIS ahead of the Paris conference, AFP reported.

“They need to act quickly because if there is a delay, if this campaign and this support for Iraq is delayed, maybe Daesh will occupy other territories and their threat will be even bigger,” he said, using the Arabic terminology for the militant group.