Australia ends airstrike operations in Iraq and Syria

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SYDNEY (AP) — Australia has announced an end to its airstrike operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The country's six Super Hornet fighter jets will soon head home in a major reduction to Australia's commitment to battling the militants in the region, three years after it began.

Defense Minister Marise Payne told reporters Friday the move followed discussions with the Iraqi government, whose Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi earlier this month declared victory over the group.

Payne says Australia will continue to provide support in the region through surveillance and refueling aircraft and the 80-strong Special Operations Task Group, which supports Iraqi security forces and counter-terrorism services.

Payne says she wants to "acknowledge the phenomenal efforts of the Hornet and Super Hornet pilots and support crew."

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