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Australia sends first contingent of troops to fight IS

Australia sends first contingent of troops to fight IS

Sydney: The first contingent of Australian troops who may fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Iraq have left for its base in the Middle East, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday.

This first deployment, whose number the authorities have not specified, was part of the 600 soldiers who are to be stationed at a base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Xinhua reported citing Abbott.

Australia will also provide several fighters and aircraft support in response to a request from the US to contribute to the international fight against the IS.

In an interview with Australian radio station 3AW, Abbott said additional personnel would depart in the next four or five days, insisting that it was a humanitarian mission "rather than a war".

Even if there is a possibility of an involvement in combat operations under the right circumstances, this decision shall not be taken until his cabinet assesses all the risks, until the Iraqi government asks for its help or until the UN gives a go-ahead.

The prime minister also confirmed that the deployment of planes and military personnel in the Middle East would cost around $452 million (349 million euros).

Abbott rejected newspaper reports indicating that Australia would end up helping the Kurdistan Workers Party that appears on the Australian government's list of terrorist groups and that is cooperating with Iraqi Kurdish forces against the IS.

Abbott said that Australian special forces would work only with legitimate Iraqi and Kurdish forces, "not with other groups" and emphasised that he has been guaranteed that the Australian weapons supplied to the Kurdish forces would be used only by them, according to local news agency AAP.

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