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Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 17:52

US, allies launch first airstrikes in Syria

By Associated Press

 US, allies launch first airstrikes in Syria

WASHINGTON - The US and five Arab countries launched airstrikes Monday night on Islamic State group targets in Syria, expanding a military campaign into a country whose three-year civil war has given the brutal militant group a safe haven.

At least seven fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and eight civilians were killed in the airstrikes, according to the oppositional Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Using a mix of manned aircraft - fighter jets and bombers - plus Tomahawk cruise missiles, the strikes were part of the expanded military campaign that President Barack Obama authorized nearly two weeks ago in order to disrupt and destroy the Islamic State militants, who have slaughtered thousands of people, beheaded Westerners - including two American journalists - and captured large swaths of Syria and northern and western Iraq.

US officials said the airstrikes began around 00:30 GMT, and were conducted by the US, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, but the operation was expected to continue for several more hours, according to one US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Syrian state media carried a brief statement from the foreign ministry early on Tuesday, 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.''

An Islamic State fighter told Reuters Tuesday, "These attacks will be answered. The sons of Saloul are the ones who are to be blamed. It happened because of them," using a derogatory term for Saudi Arabia's royal Saudi family.

No details could be provided yet, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary. The strikes were carried out by manned Air Force and Navy aircraft, and the Tomahawk missiles were launched from US ships in the northern Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. The aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush is in the Gulf.


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