Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Military Aircraft Have Not Flown in Syria for Weeks: Commander

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Military Aircraft Have Not Flown in Syria for Weeks: Commander

Article excerpt

Canadian military aircraft sticking to Iraq

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OTTAWA - Canadian military aircraft involved in the fight against Islamic State militants have not flown over Syria for the past few weeks, though a senior officer denied any links Friday to Russian threats.

Tensions erupted last month after Moscow warned that it would track allied aircraft operating west of the Euphrates river in Syria as potential targets in retaliation for the U.S. shooting down a Syrian government jet.

National Defence refused at the time to say whether there was any concern for the Canadian military surveillance or refuelling planes flying over Syria and Iraq as part of the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition.

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Friday, Brig.-Gen. Daniel MacIsaac said the planes have been operating exclusively in Iraq for several weeks -- though he insisted it was not because of Russia.

"We are busy and contributing very well in Iraq right now," said MacIsaac, who took over as commander of Joint Task Force-Iraq in February. "Right now, our (aircraft) have ample work to do in Iraq."

Canadian aircraft have not been targeted by Russian or Syrian air defences, he added.

Defence officials would not say when Canadian aircraft last flew over Syria, citing operational security. But they did reveal that earlier this year the planes flew dozens of missions over the war-ravaged country, where ISIL is under pressure from U.S. and local forces.

The war against ISIL has entered a new phase since Iraqi officials announced earlier this month government forces had finally liberated the city of Mosul after nine bloody months of fighting.

The victory has been bittersweet -- it represented a major blow to the extremist group but tens of thousands of civilians are believed dead.

While some might believe the worst is over, ISIL, or Daesh, continues to hold large swaths of territory, MacIsaac noted. …

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