(MENAFN - Trend News Agency ) Islamic State has been 'crushed' in Iraq and Syria, Theresa May told the RAF today in a surprise Christmas visit to troops in Cyprus, reported.
The Prime Minister hailed the air force's men and women at Britain's Akrotiri base in Cyprus for their key role on Operation Shader, the codename for the fight against ISIS ( Daesh ) jihadis in their heartlands.
Speaking in front of a Typhoon fighter and Tornado bomber, she told 100 servicemen and women: 'Here in Cyprus, you are at the epicentre of so much of our military activity in the region.
'It's from here that you have conducted more than 1,600 air strikes against Daesh targets and supported more than 1,450 personnel working with our allies and partners in Jordan and Iraq to fight Daesh and prevent its re-emergence.
'And let's be clear just what a difference that has made; just three years ago Daesh declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria - a safe haven in which to carry out the most barbaric acts and from which to plot murder on our streets at home.
'But today, thanks in very large part to your efforts, the so-called caliphate has been crushed and no longer holds significant territory in Iraq or Syria.
'You should be incredibly proud of of that achievement.'
Offering a 'big thank you on behalf of our nation', she told the assembled troops: 'At this special time of year it's even more important that you know just how vital your work is, and just how much I appreciate the sacrifices that you and your families make in the service of our country.'
She added: 'It is you who take down our enemies and stand by our allies when the going gets tough.'
Mrs May's Voyager plane landed at Akrotiri on Thursday night after she flew in from Warsaw following talks with her Polish counterpart.
The PM was keen to make a festive visit to Cyprus to thank British troops for their work in tackling bloodthirsty extremists.
Akrotiri is the main base for the RAF's mission to take on the jihadis, with Typhoon and Tornados flying thousands of sorties over ISIS lairs, and launching hundreds of bombing raids on jihadi targets.
In a six-minute speech at the windswept Mediterranean airbase, Mrs May praised the airmen and women's 'professionalism, courage and sacrifices' as she hailed the RAF on the eve of its centenary, which is celebrated next year.
Mrs May went on: 'Those of you in the RAF are the present pioneers of the world's most iconic air force, while everyone of you here today are part of one of the greatest military forces in the world.
'I hope that as a nation in this special year ahead we can collectively raise the national consciousness of the work that you do and the sacrifices that you make in the service of others.
'As Prime Minister, I will do everything I can to lead the nation in this endeavour, for you are quite simply the pride of our nation, and that is how you should be treated.
'Let me start that by thanking you once again for everything that you are doing and by wishing you and your families the best possible Christmas and a happy, safe and successful 2018.'