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France launches 'massive' series of airstrikes on Isil strongholds

France has launched a "massive" series of airstrikes on the Islamic State group's de facto capital in Syria.

The strikes destroyed a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump.

A French government spokesman said the strikes on Raqqa involved 12 aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and 20 bombs were dropped.

Meanwhile, tantalising clues about the extent of the plot came from Baghdad, where senior Iraqi officials said France and other countries had been warned on Thursday of an imminent attack.

An Iraqi intelligence dispatch warned that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered his followers to immediately launch gun and bomb attacks and take hostages inside the countries of the coalition fighting Isil in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi dispatch provided no details on when or where the attack would take place and a senior French security official said French intelligence gets these kinds of warnings "all the time" and "every day".

However, Iraqi intelligence officials claimed that they also warned France about specific details - among them that the attackers were trained for this operation and then sent back to France from Raqqa.

The officials also said that a sleeper cell in France then met the attackers after their training and helped them to execute the plan.

There were 24 people involved in the operation, they said: 19 attackers and five others in charge of planning and logistics.

None of these details have been corroborated by officials of France or other Western intelligence agencies.

Struggling to keep his country calm and united after an exceptionally violent year, President Francois Hollande met yesterday with opposition leaders - conservative rival and former President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as increasingly popular far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who has used the attacks on Paris to advance her anti-immigrant agenda.

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