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Politics Six Canadian jets leave for Iraq combat mission on Tuesday

CF-18 Hornets fly in formation on their the departure for Operation IMPACT, in Cold Lake, Alberta.

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

Six Canadian warplanes are leaving for the Iraq combat mission Tuesday morning as this country joins the air campaign against Islamic State militants.

The CF-18s are leaving from Cold Lake, Alta., and are heading to Kuwait, where Canada's base of operations for the mission is located.

Canada is joining an international coalition, dropping bombs on Islamic jihadis that have cut a swath of destruction through parts of Syria and Iraq and imposed a vicious interpretation of Islam on those they've conquered.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has also deployed nearly 70 special forces advisers to northern Iraq to help local forces, including Kurds, fight Islamic State militants.

Both of these missions form Operation Impact and they are both slated to end in six months, although Canadian military commanders are saying that the job in Iraq could take up to a year.

That's because members of the coalition of more than 40 nations allied against the Islamic State are going to be called on to mount large-scale retraining of Iraqi government forces after the first phase of the campaign is over.

Canada's air-combat mission should be set up and ready to operate out of Kuwait by the end of October.

During a briefing last week in Ottawa, officials said there are detailed procedures in place to limit the number of civilian casualties and stressed that pilots would have ultimate discretion over whether to release their bombs.

Concerns have arisen that civilians could be killed or injured in coalition air strikes, including in areas where it may be difficult to distinguish between Islamic State militants and ordinary Iraqis.

During the war in Afghanistan, civilian deaths caused some people to turn against the Western coalition in favour of the Taliban.

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Canadian Armed Forces pilots will use guided munitions to reduce the possibility of civilian deaths, officials said.

The missions will be approved through a "rigorous" targeting process and authorized through Canada's national chain of command.

Canada's pilots will make the final decision on whether or not to release their bombs on targets.

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