The British government has announced that the Royal Air Force (RAF) took part in a ten-day operation against Daesh in Iraq last month, representing its largest engagement against the terror group in two years.
A statement by the Ministry of Defence yesterday revealed that the RAF – along with other coalition forces – launched air raids on Daesh positions in the mountainous region of Makhmur in Iraq. Situated between government-controlled areas in the south and the Kurdish region in the north, Daesh fighters were reportedly using the caves there as hideouts following the group's territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria a few years ago.
According to the UK's Air Commodore Simon Strasdin, who led the attacks, the operation was the result of "many, many months of building understanding and intelligence." Using Typhoon jets, Paveway bombs, and Storm Shadow cruise missiles, the RAF and the coalition attacked "a number of these targets every night for circa 10 days," amounting "to between 50 and 100 of the targets and complexes."
It was not clear how many Daesh fighters were killed in the operation, but the number is estimated in the dozens. That uncertainty is due to the fact that the coalition has few boots on the ground in its operations against Daesh, but relies on local Iraqi armed forces to finish them off in the caves.
It forms the basis of the UK's and the coalition's continued strategy in Iraq, which according to Strasdin would be "winnable through the Iraqis being able to stabilise their country" on the ground with Western air support. Such operations will reportedly be ongoing throughout this year and beyond, as Strasdin "could not give an exact timeline" of when it would come to an end.
News of the mission comes a year after the UK relaunched its campaign of air strikes against Daesh in Iraq last April, insisting that the terror group currently remains as the most significant threat to Britain. In February it was revealed that London had also been combatting the group through cyber capabilities over the past few years.