France pulls out military forces in Iraq amid virus demands

Health

French President Emmanuel Macron wears a face mask during his visit at the military field hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. French President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation Wednesday to help fight the new virus in one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (Mathieu Cugnot/Pool via AP)

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PARIS (AP) — France is pulling out its military forces from Iraq as French forces are increasingly called upon to help fight the coronavirus at home.

The chief of staff of the French armed forces said in a statement Wednesday night that France is suspending its anti-terrorism training operations in Iraq and also bringing home its Iraq-based troops involved in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

France, which has suffered repeated attacks on its soil by Islamic State extremists, is maintaining military operations in Kuwait and Qatar, and air force missions over Syria.

The announcement came just after French President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation to support efforts to treat people infected with the new virus.

France plans to deploy helicopter carriers in its overseas territories, and has transported the sick on military planes and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. The French military also built a field hospital in the eastern city of Mulhouse, located in the region of France hardest-hit by the outbreak.

France had almost 26,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday and the fifth-largest number of virus-related deaths in the world at more than 1,300.

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