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Australian aircraft to join coalition air strikes in Iraq

SYDNEY: Australian fighter jets have been authorized to begin striking Islamic State insurgents in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday, joining a U.S.-led coalition that aims to roll back gains by the insurgent group in the Middle East.

Abbott said that Australian special forces troops would also be deployed on the ground in Iraq in an “advise and assist” capacity to support the Iraqi army in their battle against the militant Islamist group.

The United States has been bombing Islamic State and other groups in Syria for almost two weeks with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighbouring Iraq since August. European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq but not in Syria. (Reuters)

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