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US – Arab Allies Bomb IS Jihadists in Syria

Posted by on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 11:25
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The United States and Arab allies unleashed bombs and Tomahawk cruise missiles on Islamic State targets in eastern Syria early Tuesday, opening a new front in the fight against the jihadist group, defense officials said.

IS Jihadists in Syria

IS Jihadists in Syria

Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took part in the air raids, US media reported, in an extraordinary show of regional solidarity against the IS group that has rampaged through Syria and Iraq.

A US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP that Arab “partners” joined the bombing runs but did not say which countries were involved.

The US-led air assault in Syria marked a turning point in the war against the IS group, as the Obama administration had long been reluctant to intervene in Syria’s raging civil war.

But Washington has concluded it had to act, amid fears IS fighters could eventually stage terror attacks in Europe or the United States if left unchecked.

“I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL (Islamic State group) terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The decision to conduct the air strikes was undertaken on Monday by the head of US Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, “under authorization granted him by the commander in chief,” Kirby said.

“We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate.”

The strikes focused on IS positions in Raqa, a stronghold for the Sunni extremists, according to the New York Times and other media, citing US officials. Other targets struck were along the Iraq-Syria border, the newspaper said.

US F-22 fighter jets, America’s most sophisticated warplane, took part in the raids as well — the first combat mission for the costly aircraft, according to the Wall Street Journal and ABC News.

– ‘No safe haven’ –

The strikes — including Tomahawk missiles fired from naval warships — came less than two weeks after Obama warned that he had approved an expansion of the campaign against the Islamic State group to include action in Syria.

“I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Obama said on September 10 in a speech to the nation.

“This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

Under Obama’s orders, US warplanes began air strikes against IS targets in Iraq on August 8, with about 190 raids carried out against the extremists there.

Obama, however, has repeatedly promised the campaign would not involve a combat mission for US ground troops in Iraq.

The US president’s strategy calls for American air power combined with training and arming local forces in Iraq and “moderate” rebel fighters in Syria.

His approach has sparked criticism in Washington and the Middle East that the effort will fail without capable ground forces that can roll back the well-organized and well-financed jihadists.

Last week, the US Congress endorsed Obama’s plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels to battle the IS militants – part of his strategy to smash the movement that has beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

Lawmakers on the left, wary of the United States plunging into another open-ended, costly war in the Middle East, have vowed to hold broad use-of-force debates later this year following the November 4 midterm elections.

The air strikes in Syria came as Kurdish militia fought to defend a key border town in northern Syria, after 130,000 terrified residents fled to Turkey to escape a jihadist advance.

France is the only country to have joined the US air strikes against the IS in Iraq, where it emerged Monday that the jihadists attacked an army base west of Baghdad with six suicide bombers at the weekend, killing 40 soldiers and capturing at least 70.

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