Prime Minister David Cameron has voiced his support for air strikes carried out by the United States and Arab allies on Islamic State militants in Syria.
Downing Street said the PM will use talks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York over the next two days – including with the President of Iran – to discuss what contribution the UK and other members of the international community can make to the fight against the terror group.
The Pentagon said fighter jets, bombers and ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles were used in the onslaught against the jihadists.
The news of the attack came as Mr Cameron prepared to hold talks with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in an attempt to enlist Tehran’s support for the growing international coalition against IS – also known as Isil.
Downing Street said: “The PM supports the latest air strikes against Isil terrorists which have been carried out by the US and five other countries from the Gulf and Middle East.
“The PM will be holding talks at the United Nations in New York over the next two days on what more the UK and others can do to contribute to international efforts to tackle the threat we all face from Isil.
“The UK is already offering significant military support, including supplying arms to the Kurds as well as surveillance operations by a squadron of Tornadoes and other RAF aircraft.”
Tomorrow’s meeting with Mr Rouhani will be the first time a British prime minister has held face-to-face bilateral talks with an Iranian president since the country’s Islamic revolution in 1979.
The Prime Minister, who is in New York for the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, is expected to use a speech tomorrow to set out further details of Britain’s contribution.
There is growing speculation that he will announce that UK forces will join the air strikes – although they are thought likely to be restricted to Iraq – where they would be operating at the invitation of the government in Baghdad.
The Ministry of Defence said no decisions had yet been taken on any UK military involvement against the militants who have seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, carrying out a series of atrocities, including the beheading of British aid worker David Haines and two American journalists.
Firas Abi Ali, head of Middle East analysis at IHS Country Risk, said: “The strikes seem to be an attempt to weaken the fundamentalist Islamist opposition to Syrian President Assad, in the hope that additional funding would be given to the ‘moderate’ opposition to help them turn the tide against both Assad and the fundamentalists.
“Air strikes on their own will be insufficient to defeat the Islamic State. However, it is not clear to what extent there is a moderate opposition left that can be relied on to take the ground war to the Islamic State and fulfil the aspiration of defeating both the Islamic State and Assad.
“Building a military opposition with the capability to take on both these sides may well take years rather than months. This difficulty is compounded by the divided opposition’s apparent inability to govern.
“Moreover, there is no evidence yet that the strikes have aimed at disrupting the flow of oil from Islamic State-controlled territory into neighbouring countries’ markets. Cutting off the Islamic State’s access to oil funds will be a critical component of a successful strategy aimed at weakening the group.”