Belgium to join US coalition fighting Daesh
Belgium has decided to expand its airstrikes against Daesh, as the country is still reeling from the March 22 bombings which killed 32 people in Brussels. (AFP/File)
Belgium, which has been active against Daesh in Iraq, plans to expand airstrikes in light of Brussels bombings.
Belgium will extend its F-16 air strikes against Daesh in Iraq into Syria, the government said Friday, as it grapples with the aftermath of deadly Daesh-claimed bomb attacks in Brussels in March.
"In accordance with UN Resolution 2249, the engagement will be limited to those areas of Syria under the control of ISIS [Daesh] and other terrorist groups," a spokesman for Prime Minister Charles Michel told AFP after a cabinet meeting.
"The objective will be to destroy these groups' refuges," the spokesman said, adding that the strikes would begin on July 1.
Belgium launched its first attacks against Daesh in Iraq in late 2014 as part of the US-led coalition, but decided against strikes in Syria amid public fears over getting dragged into a wider conflict.
However, the November 13 Paris attacks which left 130 people murdered brought home the Daesh threat to the heart of Europe and changed sentiment sharply.
In early March, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said the government was reconsidering its position, as it did not make sense to attack Daesh in Iraq but not in Syria.
Along with the Netherlands and Denmark, Britain has also changed tack and launched its first sorties against Daesh targets in Syria in December.
Michel's spokesman did not spell out the reason for the change in policy but it comes as Belgium is still reeling from the Daesh suicide bomber attacks at Brussels airport and on the metro on March 22 which killed 32 people.
The Paris and Brussels attacks have both been linked to the same militant cell with links to Daesh in Syria.