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RAAF mission successful

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A Royal Australian Air Force plane has delivered ammunition to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq before returning without incident to an airbase in the United Arab Emirates, Defence says.

The C-17A Globemaster aircraft flew to Tirana in Albania over the weekend where it was loaded before delivering the ammunition to the Kurdish town of Erbil via Baghdad.

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It then landed back at Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE.

“The aircraft’s crew has confirmed that no shots were fired at the aircraft and that their mission was carried out without incident,” Defence said in a statement early on Wednesday.

Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral David Johnston said further aid, stores and support flights may be planned to assist the people of northern Iraq, who remain under threat from extremist Islamic State fighters.

“The aircrew and support staff at Joint Task Force 633 have done a great job to successfully coordinate this mission to assist the people of northern Iraq,” he said.

“The cargo, in this case ammunition, was first inspected and cleared by Iraqi officials onboard the aircraft in Baghdad before the aircraft landed in Erbil.

RAAF C130 Hercules aircraft have already been involved in dropping aid to communities in northern Iraq threatened by the advance of Islamic State militants.

Obviously, flying humanitarian air drops into combat zones are full of risk. But the risks are reasonable given the importance of the missions they’re flying.

The new RAAF role in flying in small arms and ammunition is part of a US-led effort to fend off the IS militants and on Tuesday received the backing of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

He said it was important that nations such as Australia help address the situation in Iraq.

“Without addressing this issue through certain means, including some military and counter-terrorist actions, we will just end up allowing these terrorist activities to continue,” he told reporters in Auckland on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott meanwhile has warned of further risks involved in the Iraq mission.

“Obviously, flying humanitarian air drops into combat zones are full of risk. But the risks are reasonable given the importance of the missions they’re flying,” he said on Tuesday.

Labor leader Bill Shorten restated his support for the airdrops and weapons airlift but acknowledged there were easy options there.

“Providing the Kurds with light weapons, the opportunity to defend themselves against people who would kill their families, to me is the only logical choice here,” Mr Shorten said.

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