RAF carried out four strikes against Isil, as terror group thought to be exploiting coronavirus

Danielle Sheridan
RAF Reapers were used in some of the airstrikes on Isil  - Ministry of Defence 

The Royal Air Force carried out four strikes against Islamic State in May, as the terror group is understood to be exploiting coronavirus to step up attacks. 

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the strikes were conducted over northern Iraq and were all successful in hitting their targets.

The first of the four strikes took place on May 8 when an RAF Reaper bombed a bunker containing a group of Isil fighters, west of Tuz Khurmatu, in northern Iraq.

Two days later a pair of Typhoon FGR4s, supported by a Voyager air refuelling tanker, flew an armed reconnaissance patrol over northern Iraq when it located and successfully struck a cave system occupied by Isil southeast of Hatra, on the banks of the Tharthar River.

Then on the 13th of May, two of the RAF’s Reapers destroyed a further pair of Isil-occupied bunkers west of Tuz Khurmatu.

The final strike in May happened ten days later when a group of Isil fighters were located hiding in woods, along with stored equipment. A patrolling Reaper dropped one GBU-12 bomb, which hit its targets and caused secondary explosions, which the MoD said indicated the likely presence of a significant stockpile of munitions.

It comes after two similar operations in April, which were the UK’s first such activity in seven months. 

iraq

It is understood that the increased terrorist activity is a direct result of Isil seeking to exploit the coronavirus crisis. 

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said: “These strikes are another example of how the UK Armed Forces protect our nation and allies, every single day, from all those who seek to do us harm.”

It comes after  Charlie Pate, the Director General of Finance at the MoD, told the Commons public accounts select committee on Thursday that he was already "reducing spend on infrastructure, reducing training exercises, [and making] decisions on specific capabilities to live within the budget".

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee cautioned that “global security was in a poor state prior to Covid-19” and said the increased activity was an “example of our adversaries taking full advantage of the pandemic”. 

He said the fact such attacks continue in Iraq shows it “still requires the international community to step forward”.  “This is all the more reason why our defence budgets should be protected,” he added.  

Mr Ellwood said he suspected terrorist organisations “will be planning a totemic incident as a return to their normal terrorist activities and they will be organising a significant event, hence why it is so important that we remain vigilant.”