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Hollande: Airstrikes in Syria 'Necessary'

French President Francois Hollande, Sept. 14 , 2015.

French President Francois Hollande, Sept. 14 , 2015.

A week after expanding its reconnaissance operations of terrorist groups from Iraq to Syria, France's president says strikes against Islamic State militants there are necessary.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari, President Francois Hollande announced a new step in France’s involvement in combating the Islamic State group.

Hollande says France is part of a coalition in Iraq against the militant group. Paris started reconnaissance flights last week in Syria to allow it to consider whether airstrikes are necessary — and, he said, they are.

Buhari is on a three-day visit to France that aims to strengthen cooperation with France, including on defense and security issues. Nigeria and its regional allies are waging an intense battle against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Hollande told reporters the fight against Boko Haram is also the fight against Islamic State, because Boko Haram receives support from IS or Daesh — and it’s impossible to distinguish terrorism among regions today.

Until now, France has only carried out airstrikes in Iraq, afraid that expanding action to Syria could strengthen the power of President Bashar al-Assad. But that has changed as Islamic State has expanded across Syrian territory. Hollande said last week the country was considering strikes.

A new poll finds that 56 percent of French support a possible military operation against Islamic State in Syria, although most believe that military intervention cannot resolve the current crisis in Syria.