France backing up war on extreme Islam with air strikes and aircraft carrier deployment

The French Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is deploying with its battlegroup to the Gulf, and is understood to be preparing to contribute to coalition air strikes against Islamic State.

Sailing on 13 January, the carrier battlegroup – which includes a nuclear-powered attack submarine – will head from Toulon through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf on Operation ‘Arromanches’. The deployment is scheduled to last until May at the earliest.

While there has been no confirmation from French authorities, the carrier – with about 20 combat aircraft embarked – is likely to support air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. The strikes would take place under Operation ‘Chammal’, the French contribution to the multinational operation ‘Inherent Resolve’.

Charles de Gaulle ‘s embarked air assets include two squadrons of fighter aircraft: 11F (or flotille) with the Dassault Rafale M aircraft, and 17F with the Dassault Super Etendard Modernisé (SEM). The SEM aircraft are scheduled to be withdrawn from service in 2016 and replaced by the Rafale M. Also present on board are two Northrop Grumman E-2C command-and-control aircraft from squadron 4F.

France’s lower house of Parliament approved extending French airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq. France quickly joined the United States in conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State last year. French law requires a vote on extending such operations after four months.

Hollande vowed that France will be “merciless in the face of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim acts, and unrelenting against those who defend and carry out terrorism, notably the jihadists who go to Iraq and Syria.”

France announced Wednesday that 54 people had been arrested since the Paris terror attacks in a country-wide crackdown on hate speech, anti-Semitism and the glorification of terrorism.

The Justice Ministry said 54 people — including four minors — have been detained for defending or verbally threatening terrorism since the Charlie Hebdo attack. Several have already been convicted under special measures for immediate sentencing.

The government is also working on new phone-tapping and other intelligence efforts against terrorism that it wants nailed down by next week, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday.

SOURCES – Janes, Haaretz, Fox News

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