French fighter jets took off from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle for an operation against the Islamic State jihadist organisation (IS) in its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, an officer said.
Eight jets took off from the carrier in the eastern Mediterranean, an AFP photographer on the flight deck reported.
The Charles de Gaulle is on its third mission since February 2015 in support of the US-led coalition fighting the IS group in Iraq and Syria.
It was not immediately clear whether the French jets were to carry out air strikes or were on a reconnaissance mission.
The IS group seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground from the jihadists and are readying for an assault to retake Iraq’s second-largest city with coalition air and artillery support.
French President François Hollande announced in July that the Charles de Gaulle, which carries 24 Rafale jets, would be sent back to the region for bombing raids on IS targets.
The vessel’s latest mission is planned to end in late October, according to Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
700,000 will need aid once Mosul offensive starts
The UN said Thursday it expected at least 700,000 people in Mosul would need assistance once the expected offensive on the Islamic State group stronghold begins.
“Mosul has the potential to be one the largest… disasters of many, many years,” warned Bruno Geddo, the United Nation’s refugee agency’s main representative in Iraq.
Iraq is already facing one of the world’s biggest displacement crises, with around 3.3 million people forced to flee their homes in the country since 2014.