The RAF and other coalition planes engaged in the largest airstrikes against Isis in two years last month, in a 10-day mission that attacked as many as 100 cave hiding places in Iraq and left probably caused dozens of victims.

The attacks ended on March 22, the defense ministry said.

British forces and other nations are fighting an estimated 10,000 Isis guerrillas operating in Syria and Iraq, nearly seven years after the start of the war against the terrorist group.

Air Commodore Simon Strasdin, who heads the British airstrikes, said he “could not give an exact timeline” for the end of the long-standing war, but insisted it would be “Winnable thanks to the Iraqis able to stabilize their country”.

Iraq has been beset by conflict almost continuously since the 2003 invasion by the United States, the United Kingdom and other international forces, a situation which has developed further with the emergence of Isis in the country and neighboring Syria from around 2013.

The exact number of injured during the last operation is unknown; the cave complexes have yet to be cleared by Iraqi ground forces.

Strasdin said: “We, as a coalition, pursued a number of these targets every night for about 10 days.” It represented “between 50 and 100 of the targets and complexes”.

It is likely that dozens of people have died. Strasdin predicted the UK would be involved in operations in 2021 that would result in more deaths than the 67 the UK said would have died fighting British forces in 2019 and 2020.

Isis fighters hid in the remote region of the Makhmur Mountains – which lies between the Iraqi government’s zone of control in the south and the Kurdish-ruled north – in a series of modified limestone caves which it claims British defense sources were at least three miles away. civilian sites.

The attacks on the cave complexes would have required months of planning, with coalition forces seeking first to find and then locate the hiding places. “It has been many, many months developing understanding and intelligence,” Strasdin said.

Britain joined the United States and dozens of other countries in attacking Isis from the air while relying on local ground forces. In early 2019, the terrorist group lost the last of its territory, which led to speculation about the end of the war.

At some point between late 2019 and early 2020, the RAF air raids and ground drone strikes came to a halt. But the latest raids show that the conflict is far from over, even though those involved say the end of the war is relatively near.

Chris Coles, of Drone Wars, which tracks British forces airstrikes and drones, said the massive bombing in northern Iraq was “perhaps the first indication” of a consistent campaign strategy described by the UK government in last month’s Integrated Foreign Police and Defense Review.

‘With few boots on the ground there is almost no pressure to end military interventions and so we are now likely to see British planes and drones engaging in endless sporadic bombardments with almost no visibility consequences for those on the ground. ,” he added.

The RAF used Typhoon jets during the operation, targeting caves with Paveway bombs, and used Storm Shadow cruise missiles for the first time in two years. Separately, on April 4, an RAF Reaper drone struck Syria for the first time in nearly two years, targeting a group of Isis operatives.