58 DIE IN US AIRSTRIKES ON SYRIA; OBAMA URGES FURTHER COALITION SUPPORT

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-213) (R) and an F/A-18C Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-15) prepare for take off onboard the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the GulfHamad I Mohammed/Reuters
An F/A-18F Super Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-213) and an F/A-18C Hornet of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-15) prepare for take off onboard the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush in the Gulf. Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

PENTAGON SAYS IT ALSO HIT AL-QAIDA SPLINTER GROUP ‘KHORASAN’ IN SYRIA, CLAIMS GROUP WAS PLANNING TO HIT US/WESTERN TARGETS

WASHINGTON (IANS) At least 58 people were killed Tuesday, including 50 jihadis, as the US-led alliance launched airstrikes on Islamic extremists in Syria as US President Barack Obama called for further coalition efforts to strike Islamic State (IS) militants.

Among the 58 people killed, 50 were members of the Nusra Front, affiliated to the Al Qaeda in Syria, who died in a rocket attack on their base in the western part of the northern city of Aleppo, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdul Rahman, told Efe news agency.

The rest were civilians, among them a woman and two minors, who were killed in a bombing on the Kafr Diryan village bordering the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.

The Syrian government was informed in advance about the operation on its territory.

The alliance’s warplanes hit bases of the IS in Raqaa, Deir al-Zur, al-Hasakah and the Aleppo governorates, Abdul Rahman said by phone.

He added that positions of the Nusra Front were also targeted. It is still unknown whether any IS fighters were killed or wounded in the bombings.

Following the attacks, Obama Tuesday called for further coalition efforts to strike IS militants in Syria.

He made these remarks on the White House lawn before leaving for a series of UN meetings in New York, Xinhua reported.

“I will have the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister (Haider) Abadi of Iraq and with friends and allies at the United Nations to continue building support for the coalition that is confronting this serious threat to our peace and security,” Obama said.

“Earlier this month, I outlined for the American people our strategy to confront the threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIL (now known as IS),” he said, adding that “as part of this campaign, the United States would take action against targets in both Iraq and Syria so that these terrorists can’t find safe haven anywhere”.

US military forces and partner nations have undertaken military actions against the IS forces in Syria overnight, according to a statement released by the Central Command Tuesday.

A mix of fighters, bombers, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk missiles conducted 14 strikes against IS targets, the statement said.

The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple IS targets in the vicinity of the towns of Ar Raqqah in north-central Syria, Dayr az Zawr and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Al Hasakah in northeastern Syria.

The targets included IS fighters, training compounds, headquarters, command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance centre, supply trucks and armed vehicles, it said.

The US employed 47 Tomahawk missiles, launched from USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, which were operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf.

In addition, US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters, bombers and remotely piloted aircraft deployed to the US Central Command area of operations participated in the airstrikes.

Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also took part in or supported the airstrikes against IS targets, the statement said, adding that all aircraft safely exited the strike areas.

The US conducted these strikes as part of Obama’s comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat IS.

Going forward, the US military would continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against IS in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against the terrorist group, the statement said.

Separately, the US also took action to disrupt the plotting of attacks against the US and Western interests by a network of seasoned Al Qaeda veterans known as the Khorasan group.

According to a Xinhua report from Damascus, Washington had informed Syria of airstrikes against positions of the IS in Syria before Tuesday’s strikes started.

The Syrian foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday that Syria’s envoy to the UN was informed Monday about the commencement of the US-led airstrikes against IS positions in Syria’s northern province of al-Raqqa, adding the airstrikes started before daybreak Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Jordan announced Tuesday that its warplanes took part in the US-led air operation against the IS jihadis in northern Syria, an Efe report from Amman said.

In a statement reported by the official news agency Petra, a source at army headquarters said that the Jordanian air force destroyed “several targets”.

Without mentioning Syria, the statement said that the strikes were aimed at “positions of terrorist groups that are used as platforms to launch operations against Jordanian territory”.

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