France considers joining Syria airstrikes

France considers joining Syria airstrikes

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PARIS (AP) — France is considering whether to extend its airstrikes to Syria and is increasing security in public places after militants linked to the Islamic State group beheaded a French hostage, officials said Thursday.

President Francois Hollande's office announced that France will "intensify" its support for Syrian opposition forces fighting the Islamic State extremists. A presidential aide would not elaborate on what kind of support or whether it could involve military action.

Hollande held an emergency defense meeting Thursday, a day after the killing of 55-year-old mountaineering guide Herve Gourdel was announced.

Hollande's office said France will increase security in public places and on public transport.

Security measures were already stepped up after France started airstrikes in Iraq last Friday, becoming the first country to join the U.S. air campaign against the Islamic State fighters.

France initially insisted that it would limit airstrikes to Iraq. But the French position seems to be shifting since the U.S. extended its airstrikes to Syria.

Ahead of Thursday's meeting, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio that officials are deliberating whether France's current actions in Iraq are sufficient against the extremist group, which has havens — and oil fields — in Syria.

"We already have an important task in Iraq and we will see how the situation evolves in coming days," Le Drian said. "We are asking the question."

France's foreign minister said earlier this week there was no "legal obstacle" to airstrikes in Syria.

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