Tuesday, September 23, 2014
US and allies kill tens of IS and Nusra militants in bombing raids in Syria
The United States and its Arab allies early Tuesday launched bombing raids against Islamic State militants in Syria, opening up a new front in the battle against the jihadist group after more than a month of US air strikes in Iraq. Military officials have said the US would target militants’ command and control centres, re-supply facilities, training camps and other key logistical sites.
The strikes were aimed at the Islamic State's stronghold of Raqqa as well as near the Iraq border, with targets including weapons supplies and buildings used by the group, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from a network of activists on the ground, tens of ISIL fighters were killed or wounded in the strikes on Raqqa and surrounding areas. "More than 20 members of ISIL were killed in strikes on two of the organisation's positions in Raqqa province. The strikes completely destroyed the two positions as well as vehicles stationed there," the monitoring group said.
Airstrikes were also carried out against positions of al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front, the observatory said, adding that multiple attacks targeted an area in western Aleppo province, killing at least seven people, both fighters and civilians.
The US has also been increasing its surveillance flights over Syria, getting better intelligence on potential targets and militant movements. Military leaders have said about two-thirds of the estimated 31,000 Islamic State militants were in Syria.
The bombing raids came after President Barack Obama warned in a speech on September 10 that the United States was prepared to attack IS militants, also known as ISIS and ISIL, in Syria. Last week, as part of the newly expanded campaign, the US began going after militant targets across Iraq, including enemy fighters, outposts, equipment and weapons. To date US fighter aircraft, bombers and drones have launched about 190 airstrikes within Iraq.
Urged on by the White House and US defence and military officials, Congress passed legislation late last week authorising the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. Obama signed the bill into law Friday, providing $500 million for the US to train about 5,000 rebels over the next year.US leaders have also been crisscrossing the globe trying to build a broad international coalition of nations, including Arab countries, to go after the Islamic State group and help train and equip the Iraqi security forces and the Syrian rebels.
The Frenchman Hervé Gourdel brtewen two of his captors.
The militant group, meanwhile, has threatened retribution. Its spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said in a 42-minute audio statement released on Sunday that the fighters were ready to battle the US-led military coalition and called for attacks at home and abroad.
An Algerian Islamist group, the Jund al-Khilafa (Soldiers of the Caliph group) said in a video on Monday that it had abducted a Frenchman Herve Gourdel on Sunday in the mountainous Tizi Ouzou region in northern Algeria, where al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is active. The French foreign ministry and presidency acknowledged Gourdel had been abducted, and that the video was genuine. Jund al-Khilafa are believed to have broken away from the local al-Qaeda affiliate and pledged allegiance to ISIL.