UK

Anti-IS coalition must 'tighten noose' in Syria - Michael Fallon

British Tornados after carrying out airstrikes in Syria Image copyright AP
Image caption The UK has been carrying out airstrikes against the IS group in Syria since December

The coalition of countries fighting so-called Islamic State (IS) must focus on a "tightening of the noose" around its Syrian heartlands, UK defence minister Michael Fallon will say.

At a meeting of defence chiefs in Paris, Mr Fallon will call for more air strikes targeting IS infrastructure.

German, French and US defence ministers will be among those at the meeting on Wednesday, the first of its kind.

They are to discuss intensifying military operations in Iraq and Syria

Speaking ahead of the talks, Mr Fallon said the coalition aimed to "dismantle" IS' "structure and capabilities".

In December MPs voted in favour of UK airstrikes against the militant group in Syria.

The UK has been carrying out airstrikes against the group in Iraq since 2014.

'New phase'

Mr Fallon will say: "We have made strong progress in recent weeks.

"Now the campaign is moving into a new phase where we aim to systematically dismantle Daesh's [as the Islamic State group is also known] structure and capabilities.

"That means striking harder at the head of the snake, with an increased focus on infrastructure, lines of communication and supply routes."

Until now, coalition bombing has focused on helping Iraqi and Kurdish troops on the ground in Iraq.

He will also call for a significant increase in the level of coalition air strikes.

The meeting comes as government figures show that UK air strikes have risen from a monthly average of 29 between May and October last year to more than 80 in December.

In January the RAF conducted 31 strikes in the first week alone.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials say so far there have been no civilian casualties linked to RAF air strikes against IS.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Fallon will also confirm the deployment of nearly 1,000 troops in Poland

The UK will also deploy HMS St Albans to patrol the waters of the Gulf, protecting the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle as strike operations are conducted, the MoD said.

HMS St Albans will also perform a similar role for the US carrier Harry S Truman, the MoD added.

Poland deployment

Meanwhile on Wednesday Mr Fallon will also announce that nearly 1,000 British troops are to be sent to Poland for Nato exercises.

The UK is sending about 800 military personnel for Exercise Anakonda and 150 personnel to Exercise Swift Response, Michael Fallon will say.

Mr Fallon is due to confirm the deployment after talks with his Polish counterpart Antoni Macierewicz.

A further 1,000 personnel will also be sent to Nato's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2020, he will add.

Mr Fallon and Mr Macierewicz are expected to discuss the security relationship between the two countries when they meet in Edinburgh.

The frigate HMS Iron Duke will visit Poland on Nato duties this summer.

The helicopter carrier HMS Ocean will also take part in a Baltic Sea exercise, and a Royal Navy minehunter is due to visit Poland in the autumn.

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