French warplanes bomb Islamic State camp in Iraq

Map of known provincial locations of training camps run by the Islamic State, the Al Nusrah Front, and allied jihadist groups since 2012. Map created by Caleb Weiss and Bill Roggio.

The French Air Force has joined US and allied countries in targeting jihadist training camps in Iraq and Syria. The Long War Journal has identified 39 camps in Iraq and Syria as being operational at one point in time or another since 2012.

The French Ministry of Defense announced on Oct. 23 that it struck an Islamic State camp in Hawijah in Salahaddin province. Hawijah is currently controlled by the Islamic State. The camp is used for the “training of terrorists,” as a recruitment center and as an IED “factory,” according to a translation of the press release by The Long War Journal.

“At about 10:30 p.m. Paris time, a patrol of Rafale [jets], each armed with six AASM(1) bombs and equipped with the Damocles targeting pod, launched 12 AASM[s] at the target,” the French MoD press release says. “This air raid, in which our allies participated, resulted in the destruction of an Islamic State complex that was serving as a factory for homemade bombs and as a center for the recruitment, formation, and training of terrorists. The airstrikes were complemented by simultaneous strikes by our allies on two other strategic Islamic State sites, dealing a heavy blow to their logistics.”

The Islamic State is known to operate four camps in Salahaddin province. The Long War Journal has identified other facilities in Samarra, Baiji, and the Hamrin Mountains.

US Central Command, which is directing air operations in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State, noted that it struck a “training camp” in two airstrikes near Baiji between Oct. 23-24. Hawijah is 20 miles northeast of Baiji.

Jihadist camps in Iraq and Syria

Since the beginning of 2012, a total of 39 camps have been identified as being operational, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Information on the camps has been obtained from jihadist videos, news accounts, and US military press releases that note airstrikes against the training facilities. It is unclear if all of the training camps are currently in operation. In addition, this analysis is compiled using publicly-available evidence. It is likely that some training camps are not advertised.

Of those camps, 28 have been located in Syria and 11 in Iraq.

The Islamic State has operated 22 camps (12 in Syria and 10 in Iraq). The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch, has operated seven camps in Syria. Various allied jihadist groups, including Ansar al Islam, Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar, and Junud al Sham, have operated 10 camps (nine in Syria and one in Iraq).

Historically, al Qaeda has used its training facilities to fuel local insurgencies while selecting individuals from the pool of trainees to conduct attacks against the West. [See LWJ report, Jihadist training camps proliferate in Iraq and Syria, for more information on the camps; and Islamist foreign fighters returning home and the threat to Europe, on the threat that jihadists training at camps in Iraq and Syria pose to the West.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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