World / Asia-Pacific

Australia authorizes bombing raids in Iraq

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-10-03 17:25

CANBERRA - The Australian government on Friday authorized air strikes in Iraq but its Prime Minister Tony Abbott rejected suggestions the country was at war.

The federal cabinet has approved bombing raids in the coming days against Islamic State extremists by a squadron of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Super Hornets, supported by 400 personnel.

But Abbott said the mission was "humanitarian" in nature, albeit a dangerous one that could last months rather than weeks.

"We are not in combat against another country. We are engaged in combat operations against an insurgency in support of the legitimate government of Iraq," he said.

"Yes, it is a combat deployment but it is an essentially humanitarian mission to protect the people of Iraq and ultimately the people of Australia from the murderous rage of the ISIL death cult."

Abbott warned the mission "to disrupt and degrade ISIL" was a dangerous one that could last months.

"I want to reassure the Australian people that it will be as long as it needs to be but as short as it possibly can be.

"ISIL must be disrupted and degraded at home and abroad, so it is absolutely in Australia's national interests that this mission go ahead.

"It's Iraq's fight at one level but at a deeper level it's the world's fight because ISIL has declared war on the world, ISIL is launching an assault on civilization, not just upon the people of Iraq right now."

The RAAF will deploy six Super Hornets, a Wedgetail surveillance aircraft and a refueller.

As well as the bombing raids, Australia is also looking to deploy about 200 special forces to train and advise Iraqi forces. Final legal approval is being sought before they are deployed.

The mission is the first time since July 2009 that the Australian Defense Force (ADF) has engaged in combat in Iraq.

Abbott said the aim was to help Iraqi security forces restore government control over its towns and cities.

Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten was briefed on the cabinet decision and said his party supported the mission but said military action alone would not "drain the swamp of terrorism."

"In the face of evil, nations of good conscience do have a responsibility to act," he said.

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