Britain Sending Drones to Syria to Gather Intelligence on Islamic State

British defense minister said last week that armed Reaper drones would conduct air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

William James
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A MQ-9 Reaper drone. Credit: AP
William James

REUTERS - Britain said on Tuesday it was authorizing armed and unarmed drones to fly surveillance missions over Syria "very shortly" in order to gather intelligence on Islamic State (IS) militants.

Britain announced the deployment after Turkey said on Monday it would allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to reinforce fellow Kurds in the Syrian town of Kobani on Turkey's border.

Michael Fallon, Britain's defense minister, said both Reaper and Rivet Joint drones would fly over Syria as part of "efforts to protect our national security from the terrorist threat emanating from there."

But in a written statement to parliament he stressed that Reapers would not be allowed to use their weapons in Syria, something he said would require "further permission", meaning a vote in parliament.

Fallon announced last week that Britain was deploying armed Reaper drones to the Middle East to conduct air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq. So far, the Royal Air Force has conducted around 38 combat missions against IS in Iraq.

Parliament voted to approve air strikes against IS in Iraq last month, after a request from the Iraqi government. But Britain isn't conducting air strikes in Syria. It has previously said such strikes would require fresh parliamentary approval. 

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