June 29, 2017 / 3:55 PM / 6 months ago

Canada extends Iraq mission by two years, 200 troops involved

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The 200-strong contingent of Canadian troops helping train Iraqi soldiers in the fight against Islamic State will stay in place until end-March 2019, two years longer than previously planned, officials said on Thursday.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers a speech on Canada's foreign policy in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada will also make a Hercules transport plane available to the U.S-led coalition fighting the militants, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said in statement. The extension had been widely expected.

Critics of the mission fear the troops could be involved in combat, despite a promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the soldiers would only use their weapons in self-defense, because they are there solely in an advisory role.

Last November, military officials said the Canadian troops in Iraq clashed several dozen times with Islamic State militants.

Reporting by David Ljunggren

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