Five more airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says warplanes struck near Albu Kamal early today


The United States military today confirmed it had launched five more airstrikes targeting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in the latest round of attacks on the militant group.

One strike hit Syria northwest of the Iraqi city of Al Qa’im, US Central Command said in a statement. Two strikes hit were west of Baghdad and two southeast of Irbil in Iraq.

The latest strikes on Tuesday and today destroyed two Islamic State armed vehicles, eight other vehicles, a weapons cache and fighting positions, the statement said.

Various attack, bomber and fighter aircraft were used in the airstrikes and all aircraft were able to leave the area safely, according to the statement.

While the United States has launched nearly 200 strikes in Iraq in recent weeks, this week’s campaign opens a new front in Syria and thrusts Washington into the country’s 3-year-old civil war.

The first strikes in Syria were carried out with help of five Arab nations.

So far, 20 airstrikes have been launched across Syria targeting Islamic State, Central Command said.

US officials yesterday had said the strikes were effective and today Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said it was still completing its overnight assessment.

“Everything we said yesterday is bearing out today,” he said in a CNN interview. “We do believe that the battle damage assessment that we’ve conducted shows that these strikes were extremely successful in terms of hitting what we were aiming at and causing the damage that we wanted to cause.”

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the raids had hit the border town of Albu Kamal and surrounding areas.

The United States with Arab allies launched air strikes on Islamic State in Syria yesterday. A spokesman for the US military said those strikes were “only the beginning“.

Albu Kamal, on the main Euphrates River valley highway, is one of the most important border crossings between Iraq and Syria, along a frontier that Islamic State wants to erase after seizing territory both sides and declaring a caliphate.

It links Islamic State‘s de facto capital Raqqa in Syria with strategic front lines in western Iraq and militant-held territory down the Euphrates to the western and southern outskirts of Baghdad.

Depriving Islamic State of the ability to cross the border freely in the Euphrates Valley could be an early strategic objective of the US-led coalition, which aims to defeat the group on both sides of the frontier.

Islamic State has exploited its ability to cross the border to score victories on both sides: fighters pouring in from Syria helped seize much of northern Iraq during a lightning advance in June, and weaponry they captured was then sent back to help the group secure more land in Syria.

The area around Albu Kamal has already been the focus of heavy bombing by US-led forces in the first day of their air campaign in eastern Syria. The Observatory said around 22 strikes hit the area yesterday.

“The people there, the activists, say they (the strikes) are probably the (international) coalition, not the regime,“ Mr Abdulrahman said, referring to the Syrian government. “The strength of the explosions are greater. Like yesterday.“

A militant Islamist fighter in the area said there had been at least nine strikes by “crusader forces“ that had hit targets including in an industrial area.