Australian fighter jets have destroyed an armoured personnel carrier belonging to Islamic State (IS), the first operation by Australian forces in Syria, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said on Wednesday.
The airstrikes in Syria included two attacks on an ISIL tactical unit which destroyed an ISIL armoured personnel carrier near Al Hasakah.
“Two of our Hornets identified the personnel carrier, which was hidden in a Daesh compound”.
The strikes come after Tony Abbott in one of his last acts as prime minister announced an expansion of Australia’s war effort from Iraq to Syria, meaning RAAF planes can now cross the border to target IS threats. “That information was reported back to the combined operations centre … and upon receiving authorization to proceed, one of the Hornets employed a precision-guided weapon to destroy the target”.
Military aircraft were not at risk of enemy fire, Andrews said, adding that strict guidance and controls were in place to limit civilian impact.
“This was done from a distance or height that preserved the safety of the Australian aircraft”, he said.
Australia currently has 330 troops training in Iraq, but there is currently no plan to deploy troops to Syria.
The United States, Canada, Turkey and Gulf states have already been involved in strikes on ISIS militants in Syria, while France has been carrying out surveillance flights over Syria in preparation for air strikes.
Some 120 foreign fighters are known to have gone from Australia to join IS in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Andrews said he didn’t believe there was any crossfire or counter-attack encountered by Australian forces.
At the time, the Australian Defence Force said action would begin within a week.
“The government has decided to reshape the scope of the mission from around 200 special forces to around 80″, Mr Andrews told parliament.