France’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will assist airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, French President Francois Hollande has said.
Hollande was speaking after a Defense Council meeting in the Elysee Palace in the French capital. The carrier will be deployed at the end of September this year, according to the French president. French aircraft carrier the Charles de Gaulle, the flagship of the French Navy, is the largest western European warship currently in commission. It is France’s first nuclear-powered surface vessel. According to the French president, Paris is planning to supply heavy weapons to Iraqi forces as early as next month.
There are, however, no plans to deploy troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, Hollande added. "It is obvious today that the author of the Nice killings was inspired by the propaganda of Islamic State," Hollande said, adding that Paris would deploy “artillery means available to the Iraqi Army” to fight effectively against the terrorist organization.
Hollande also announced the reinforcement of police in France, with at least 10,000 additional soldiers being deployed in places of recreation at the end of July.
"Terrorists want to scare us and divide us… Our unity and cohesion are more crucial than ever,” Hollande said.
By the end of the month there will also be 15,000 additional troops to ensure security in public places, he added.
France has been on high alert following the deadly truck attack in Nice on July 14 that killed at least 84 people. Weapons and grenades were found in the vehicle following the rampage. The truck driver was later identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. It was revealed that he was a 31-year-old French national who was born in Tunisia.
The attacker was aided by a tight-knit team of associates, who helped him sketch out his plan and acquired weapons for him, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, following critical newspaper reports, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve acknowledged there was no national police presence at the entrance to Nice’s main walkway during the Bastille Day truck attack, backtracking on previous statements.