Australia is deploying troops to Iraq

ISIS terror group
Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

Australia says it is sending 600 troops to the Middle East ahead of possible combat operations against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

ISIS terror group
Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the deployment, initially to the United Arab Emirates, was in response to a specific US request.

Nearly 40 countries, including 10 Arab states, have signed up to a US-led plan to tackle the extremist group.

France is hosting a regional security summit on Monday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris late on Saturday after a four-day tour of the Middle East trying to drum up support for action against IS.

Last week, US President Barack Obama presented a strategy to fight the group in both Iraq and Syria.

Speaking on Sunday, Prime Minister Abbott said Iraq had made it clear that it would “very much welcome” a military contribution to restore security.

He said the force, which will also include up to eight Super Hornet fighter jets, was part of “an international coalition” not simply an “American-Australian operation”.

Mr Abbott said no decision had yet been taken to commit the forces, which will begin deploying next week, to combat action.

The announcement comes two days after Australia raised its terrorism threat level from medium to high.

Security officials are thought to be concerned by the growing number of Australians “working with, connected to or inspired by” Islamist groups, Mr Abbott said on Friday.

Islamic State is now in control of large parts of Iraq and Syria and the CIA estimates that the group could have as many as 30,000 fighters in the region.


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