Airstrikes carried out by the US and Arab allies on positions of the jihadist group “Islamic State” have caused heavy casualties, a monitoring group says. Damascus says it was informed of the operation.
The jihadist group “Islamic State” (IS) has suffered heavy casualties in the first airstrikes carried out on its positions in Syria by the United States and five Arab allies, a group monitoring the conflict in Syria said on Tuesday.
“The US planes carried out at least 20 strikes targeting headquarters, checkpoints and bases for the Islamic State group in the city of al- Raqqa as well as on its eastern and western outskirts,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that there was “confirmed information” that the airstrikes had inflicted heavy casualties on the militants.
Strikes were also carried out on the towns of Tabqa, Ein Issa and Tel Abayad on the Turkish border, Observatory head Rami Abdurrahman said.
The Observatory obtains its information from a large network of activists in the country. The reports cannot be independently verified.
The strikes were carried out by manned aircraft of the Air Force and Navy, while Tomahawk missiles were also fired at the start of the operation from US ships in the northern Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, a senior US official told broadcaster CNN.
The air raids, authorized by US President Barack Obama less than two weeks ago, open up a new front against the IS militants, who have taken advantage of the civil conflict wracking Syria to gain a major foothold in the country. The US, with assistance from France, has been carrying out strikes on IS targets in neighboring Iraq since August 8.
US media have named Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as the other countries involved in the aerial military operation. Washington has been endeavoring to form an international coalition to combat IS, receiving commitments from several European allies as well as Canada and Australia in addition to Arab nations.
The Syrian foreign ministry issued a brief statement on Tuesday carried by State media saying that “the American side informed Syria’s permanent envoy to the UN that strikes will be launched against the Daesh terrorist organization in Raqqa.” It used an Arabic name for the IS group, which has set up its self-declared Syrian capital in Raqqa.
Washington has ruled out joint action against the militants with Syria, whose president, Bashar al-Assad, it sees as illegitimate amid a more than three-year uprising against his rule.
Some officials have voiced concern that attacking IS on Syrian soil could, however, inadvertently help Assad, as the jihadists are partly also fighting against the regime.
The US Congress last week passed legislation authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels aiming to overthrow Assad.
The airstrikes come after IS captured swathes of territory straddling Syria and Iraq, slaughtering thousands of people during its advance and displacing hundreds of thousands of others. International public opinion has been hardened against the group after its brutal execution of a British aid worker and two US journalists as well as reports of atrocities committed against both Iraqi and Syrian citizens.
Tuesday’s airstrikes came just hours after an IS-affiliated group in Algeria threatened to kill a French hostage unless France stops its airstrikes in Iraq.
The threat came after an IS website called on Muslims to kill citizens of all the nations that had joined the international coalition against the group.
tj/es (AFP, Reuters, AP)