US hits IS camp

BAGHDAD – US warplanes have hit an Islamic State group training camp in Iraq in their first strike not directly supporting Iraqi or Kurdish forces, as France announced it will join the air war.

Also on Thursday the jihadists posted their latest video of a Western hostage, British journalist John Cantlie.

Unlike previous grisly postings of two American journalists and a British aid worker being beheaded, Cantlie was only shown speaking to camera in the style of a news report.

The French move, which President Francois Hollande said would be limited to Iraq, came as Washington was set to approve plans to train and arm Syrian rebels in the fight against IS, which has gained more ground in recent days.

The strike on the training camp in northern Iraq killed fighters, and destroyed buildings and vehicles, US Central Command said.

The US has now carried out 176 air strikes against IS in Iraq, while Mr Hollande announced on Thursday that France will join the campaign “within a short timeframe”.

But he underlined there would be no French strikes against IS targets in Syria.

“I decided to respond to the request of the Iraqi authorities to offer aerial support,” Mr Hollande told reporters.

“We will not go further than that. There will be no ground troops and we will only intervene in Iraq.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the move by France, “one of the countries that we’ve been counting in on this”.

The US Senate was expected to back a plan later on Thursday to train and equip anti-jihadist rebels in Syria, a key part of Mr Obama’s strategy against IS.

Who exactly will benefit from the program is unclear, as the rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad lack a clear command structure and range from secular nationalists to al-Qaida-backed extremists.