France to Begin Airstrikes in Syria

France to Begin Airstrikes in Syria

PARIS (AP) -- The Islamic State group is training extremists in Syria to attack in Europe, France's defense minister said Wednesday, announcing that French airstrikes would begin within weeks.

Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French jets would start bombing "as soon as we have well-identified targets."

Britain has defended its drone strike on a car in the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa on Aug. 21, saying the target was planning imminent attacks in the U.K. Three IS fighters were killed, including two British citizens. Previously Britain, like France, had sent bombers only to Iraq, in part because of fears of strengthening Syrian President Bashar Assad.

French opposition conservative lawmakers argued in Parliament this week against expanding the airstrikes to Syria, saying it wouldn't change much on the ground.

Le Drian said the French position changed because of a growing IS presence in Syria in recent months.

"On Syrian territory, there are people being trained whose mission is not to strike in Syria but to strike in Europe, and notably in France," Le Drian told France-Inter radio.

France's president has said growing concern about refugees also played a role.