Canada will expand anti-ISIS bombing campaign to Syria: sources

Tue Mar 24, 2015 5:53am EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada plans to expand its mission against Islamic State militants by sending fighter bombers to attack targets in Syria as well as Iraq, two well placed political sources said on Monday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will formally announce the plan at 10 a.m. eastern time (1400 GMT/ 1000 ET) on Tuesday, the sources said. He will also announce that Canada intends to extend its six-month military mission by another year to April 2016.

Canada has around 70 special forces troops operating in northern Iraq and has also provided six jets to take part in U.S.-led bombing missions against Islamic State in Iraq.

Harper, whose right-of-center Conservatives face an election in October, has taken a strong line on Islamic State, saying the movement poses a fundamental threat to Canada.

Harper will put his plans to a vote by legislators which is guaranteed to win approval, since the Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons.

Extending the mission to Syria is politically divisive, since critics say this means bombing attacks will need the approval of President Bashar al-Assad.

The left-leaning New Democrats - Canada's main opposition party - say they will vote against the proposed expansion of the mission. The centrist Liberals, who polls show have a chance of winning power in October, have yet to make their position clear.

Harper portrays both parties as weak in the fight against terror. An Ipsos Reid poll for Global Television on Monday showed that 66 percent of Canadians backed extending the mission for another year.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a photo opportunity with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) in Harper's Langevin Block office in Ottawa March 23, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie