France carries out fresh round of air strikes in Iraq

British PM Cameron also urged UK parliament to join airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq

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France carried out a second round of air strikes in Iraq on Thursday, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said, as part of a U.S.-led coalition helping the Iraqi army fight Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, Agence France-Presse reported.

The announcement came as France mourned the beheading of hostage Herve Gourdel by Algerian jihadists linked to ISIS, and Le Foll said flags would be flown at half-mast across France for three days from Friday.

Meanwhile, French Muslims were on Thursday called to rally against the “barbaric” beheading of Gourdel.

Dalil Boubakeur, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) -- an official representative for the country’s estimated five million Muslims -- called for the gathering at the Paris Mosque on Friday afternoon.

He urged Muslims and their friends to join a “moment of contemplation and solidarity” after the beheading of 55-year-old Gourdel, which has plunged the country into shock and grief.

In a related story, Prime Minister David Cameron said late Wednesday that he wanted the British Parliament to approve joining international airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq after Baghdad requested London’s help.

Cameron announced the move in his address to the U.N. General Assembly.

In doing so, Cameron also recalled parliament to secure its approval for military action.

Parliament, which was in recess, will reconvene on Friday to vote on allowing Britain’s Royal Air Force to hit ISIS targets in northern Iraq. The action has the backing of all three main parties and is expected to comfortably pass.

Cameron spoke after U.S. planes pounded ISIS positions in Syria for a second day. But the strikes did not halt the fighters’ advance in a Kurdish area where fleeing refugees told of villages burnt and captives beheaded, Reuters reported.

While addressing the 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Cameron said: “We must not be so frozen with fear that we don’t do anything at all.”

He added: “We have a need to act in our own national interest to protect our people and our society. So it is right that Britain should now move to a new phase of action.”

He described ISIS as having a “sick extremist world view.”

Britain, a staunch U.S. ally, was quick to join military action in Afghanistan and Iraq a decade ago. But a war-weary public and parliament’s rejection last year of air strikes on Syrian government targets prompted Cameron to proceed cautiously this time and win cross-party support before acting.

However, Cameron did not mention the prospect of also joining the U.S.-led international airstrikes against ISIS in Syria that began this week, The Associated Press reported.

Cameron also warned against believing that it’s necessary to “do a deal” with Syrian President Bashar Assad to defeat ISIS, calling that thinking “dangerously misguided.” He said the brutality of Assad’s government has been a powerful recruiting tool for extremists during the conflict there, which is now in its fourth year.

Assad’s government has not asked for international intervention in fighting ISIS, but Iraq has.

Cameron also said Iran could help in defeating the terror group’s threat. He met with Iran’s president Wednesday, the first such meeting since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

(AFP, Reuters and Associated Press)

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