UK Politics

Tunisian attack: Fallon hints at Syrian bombing rethink

RAF Tornado returning to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus after an armed mission last year Image copyright RAF
Image caption Michael Fallon said British bombers were in action over Iraq "almost day and night"

The UK could revisit its decision not to carry out airstrikes on so-called Islamic State militants in Syria in the wake of the deadly Tunisian attacks, the defence secretary has said.

Michael Fallon said MPs would want to "think very carefully" about how to deal with IS if Friday's killings were linked to the group's Syrian base.

The extremists were "gunning for us" and must be "destroyed", he said.

Parliament approved UK bombing of militant positions in Iraq last year.

However, MPs were not asked at the time to authorise strikes across the border in Syria.

'No legal bar'

Mr Fallon told the BBC there was an "illogicality" of British forces observing the Iraq-Syria border when IS "don't differentiate" between the two countries and moves freely between them.

"There's no legal bar to us operating in Syria but we don't have the parliamentary approval for it," he said.

He told Radio 4's World at One that work was being done to establish if the Sousse attack was directed from Syria by IS, an organisation which he said was an "evil caliphate".

"If we can link it back to Isil in Syria we'll have to reflect with the rest of the coalition how best we deal with that," he added.

Mr Fallon said the UK did not currently need to change its policy of contributing to air strikes in Iraq but not in Syria "because we're playing our part in the campaign".

If that was to change, he said, the government would need to return to Parliament and seek MPs' approval.

But the defence secretary said the government reserved the right to take action without a Commons vote if there were an imminent threat to British lives.

The Iraqi government requested allied military support in its fight against Islamist militants but the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, whose country is in the throes of a four-year civil war, has not made a similar request.

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