PARIS (AP) — France is pulling out its military forces from Iraq as French forces are increasingly called upon to help fight the coronavirus at home.

The chief of staff of the French armed forces said in a statement Wednesday night that France is suspending its anti-terrorism training operations in Iraq and also bringing home its Iraq-based troops involved in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group.

France, which has suffered repeated attacks on its soil by Islamic State extremists, is maintaining military operations in Kuwait and Qatar, and air force missions over Syria.

The announcement came just after French President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation to support efforts to treat people infected with the new virus.

France plans to deploy helicopter carriers in its overseas territories, and has transported the sick on military planes and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. The French military also built a field hospital in the eastern city of Mulhouse, located in the region of France hardest-hit by the outbreak.

France had almost 26,000 confirmed cases as of Wednesday and the fifth-largest number of virus-related deaths in the world at more than 1,300.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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