French air strikes on Islamic State in Syria 'in coming weeks': Defence minister

PARIS - France will carry out its first air strikes on the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria "in the coming weeks," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday.

The French air force has been carrying out reconnaissance missions over Syria since September 8, and strikes will follow "in the coming weeks, as soon as we have clearly identified targets," Le Drian told France Inter radio.

France has been part of a US-led coalition bombing IS positions in Iraq for the past year.

But President Francois Hollande last week changed strategy to expand action to Syria amid mounting political pressure over jihadist threats faced by France.

France has so far confirmed it has carried out two surveillance flights over Syrian territory.

The United States, Canada, Turkey and Gulf states have already been involved in strikes on IS militants in Syria, and were joined on Wednesday by Australia, according to an announcement by the Australian government.

On Tuesday, Le Drian told parliament the Islamic State had made "very significant progress" in Syria, especially in the northern region of Aleppo.

"There is an extremely strong offensive taking place on the small town of Marea, which if it succeeded would wipe out what we still call the Free Syrian Army or the national Syrian coalition, or what is left of it," he said.