SYDNEY - Australian special forces troops will be deployed in Iraq to assist in the fight against ISIS militants, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday. Its aircraft will also join U.S.-led coalition strikes. Abbott said in a nationally televised news conference the Australian troops would be engaged in an "advise and assist" capacity to support the Iraqi army in their battle against the militant Islamist group.
The United States has been bombing ISIS and other groups in Syria for almost two weeks with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighboring Iraq since August. European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq but not in Syria. Last month, Abbott sent aircraft and 600 personnel to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for joining the coalition targeting ISIS, a group which he described as a "murderous death cult." Australia is on high alert for attacks by radicalized Muslims or by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East, having raised its threat level to high and undertaken a series of high-profile raids in major cities.