News / Middle East

    More Strikes Pound Islamic State Targets in Syria, Iraq

    Syrians inspect the damage following a reported US-led coalition air strike against the headquarters of al-Nusra Front, 20 km west of the northern city of Aleppo on Sept. 25, 2014.
    Syrians inspect the damage following a reported US-led coalition air strike against the headquarters of al-Nusra Front, 20 km west of the northern city of Aleppo on Sept. 25, 2014.
    VOA News

    U.S. jets and remotely piloted drones, along with planes from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, hit Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq Saturday, U.S. military officials said.

    The attacks were latest in the U.S.-led effort to rollback Islamic State, which has presented a formidable fighting force that has seized swaths of Iraq and worried nations across Europe and the Middle East.

    In Syria, allied aircraft hit seven sites, including an Islamic State vehicle near Al-Hasakah, along with several garrison buildings and a command and control facility near Manbij. Another building and two armed vehicles near Kobani were also destroyed, the Defense Department said in a statement.

    An airfield, a garrison and a training camp near Raqqa, an Islamic State stronghold, were also hit.

    Three airstrikes in near Irbil, in Iraq, meanwhile, destroyed four Islamic State vehicles and destroyed a fighting position, the department said.

    The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 31 massive explosions in Raqqa, and casualties were reported.

    Explosions were heard also near al-Etihad University in Aleppo province, an Islamic State headquarters, and areas east of the desert town of Palmyra in Homs province.

    U.S. jets, bombers, drones and ship-launched missiles have been pounding Islamic State targets for days now, along with allied Arab forces.

    French jets have also conducted strikes, and on Friday, the list of participating militaries grew as Britain, Denmark and Belgium announced they would join the effort. Britain carried out its first combat mission in Iraq Saturday, but the Ministry of Defense said no targets were identified as requiring immediate air attack. Australia and the Netherlands are also participating.

    Turkey Gets Involved

    Turkey’s president said Turkish troops could be used to set up a secure zone in Syria, if there was an international agreement to establish such a haven for refugees fleeing Islamic State fighters

    Turkey, a NATO member, has been struggling to balance its interests in preventing further destabilization from Syria. A 11-day assault by militants on Kobani, a Syrian town also known as Ayn al-Arab, has sent 160,000 refugees across the border into Turkey since last week in the biggest such exodus in 3-and-a-half years of civil war. Hundreds of Kurdish fighters inside Turkey have also poured into the Syrian town to defend it.

    Activists and Kurdish officials on Saturday said Islamic State fighters fired rockets into Kobani. At least 12 people were reported wounded in the rocket attacks, while no immediate casualty estimates were released for the coalition strikes.

    President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said negotiations were underway to determine how and by which countries the airstrikes and a potential ground operation would be undertaken, and that Turkey is ready to take part.

    "In the distribution of responsibilities, every country will have a certain duty. Whatever is Turkey's role, Turkey will play it," he was quoted as saying said by the Hurriyet newspaper.

    "You can't finish off such a terrorist organization only with airstrikes. Ground forces are complementary ... You have to look at it as a whole. Obviously I'm not a soldier but the air [operations] are logistical," he said. “If there's no ground force, it would not be permanent.”

    On Friday, U.S. Central Command said four Islamic State tanks were destroyed in Syria's Deir el-Zour province. The Syrian Observatory said oil facilities were the apparent target of overnight strikes in Deir el-Zour and a command center was also hit.

    In northern Syria, video posted to social media appeared to show Kurdish fighters launching attacks on Islamic State targets near Kobani.

    In Iraq, seven strikes targeted armored vehicles, including three Humvees and a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, U.S. military officials said. Several other vehicles and outposts were hit in strikes near Kirkuk, west of Baghdad, and near al-Qaim.

    US Trainers in Saudi Arabia

    U.S. teams tasked with training select Syrian rebel groups were beginning to arrive in Saudi Arabia in place to start their work. The teams are part of U.S. efforts to train elements of the Syrian opposition to fight Islamic State militants.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday opposition fighters were being vetted by U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence experts to determine who will be trained, but the rebel groups will choose their own leadership.

    More than 200 airstrikes have been conducted in Iraq this week and 43 in Syria, Hagel said.

    Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military campaign is an Iraq-first strategy, but not an Iraq-only strategy. He said that any ground troops he might recommend be used in Iraq in the future would be international, and comprised of Iraqis, Kurds and Syrian opposition forces.

    Russia Again Condemns Strikes

    At the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, Russia — Syrian President Assad's lone ally among major powers — voiced new criticism of the U.S. military initiatives.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a thinly veiled reference to coalition airstrikes on Syrian soil, accused Washington of resorting to "military interference" to defend its interests. Moscow has repeatedly argued that the West should cooperate with the Syrian president in battling the extremists. On Friday, Lavrov called airstrikes in Syria a violation of international law because the US-led coalition has not received permission from Damascus.

    The coalition should seek Syrian cooperation not only for legal reasons but to ensure "the efficiency of the effort," Lavrov said.

    Lavrov's statements have been the strongest criticism yet at the U.N. General Assembly, where most speakers have spoken out against the Islamic State.

    Jordanian King Abdullah on Saturday the threat of Islamic State militants demands a "coalition of the determined" to combat and defeat them with "consistency and resolve."

    United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan told the U.N. General Assembly Saturday that Islamic State threats are expanding beyond the Middle East. Speaking through an interpreter, he said "the current collective action against the threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups reflects the international community's common conviction of the necessity to confront this imminent danger.

    "Civilized communities have no other option but to succeed completely in this test and eliminate this threat," said Al-Nahyan, who then called for increased support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's more moderate opponents.

    On Friday, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice met at the White house with a delegation from the Syrian Opposition Coalition, including that group's president, Hadi al-Bahra. They discussed ways the United States can support the moderate opposition to counter Islamic State and strengthen the prospects for a political transition in Syria.

    The Islamic State militants, comprising local and foreign fighters and espousing a severe form of Islam, swept through large parts of Iraq in June, defeating U.S.-trained-and-armed Iraqi forces, seizing large amounts of their weapons. It already controlled large amounts of territory in Syria, where it is fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

    The campaign has brought Washington back to the battlefield of Iraq that it left in 2011 and into Syria for the first time after avoiding involvement in a war that began the same year.

    VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns contributed reporting from the United Nations. Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    by: Anonymous from: GB
    September 28, 2014 2:56 AM
    Islamic State may expand to Russia's borders,what then? Russia has a plan to dismember Ukraine so far and it succeeds in that. Russia is evil,we must not buy Russia's gas and oil to give money to develop Russia's military capabilities. Soon or late they will aim their rifles and tanks at West,especially at Europe. We must weaken Russia. Then poor Russians will topple Putin down.

    by: Allah from: thailand
    September 27, 2014 10:53 PM
    Assad has been fighting Islamic Mohammedan jihadist terrorists for years what now?

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    September 27, 2014 7:53 PM
    VOA, I am the good man, I support the U.S and Israel. Those Arabs that do not love the U.S and Israel are the bad people. I told VOA that this ISIS needed military confrontation, there is no negotiation with terrorists. They don't understand that language. But always remember, I am on the good side. I support the U.S air strikes, I stand with the U.S
    In Response

    by: Matthew from: Minnesota
    September 27, 2014 9:50 PM
    I agree with you Leroy. Those cowards have no regard for human life. I support the United States and it allied airstrike against those idiots. I stand with other countries that joined the United States in this operation.

    by: Not Again from: Canada
    September 27, 2014 5:08 PM
    So far so good; the tactics need to be shifted also to all the points of contact = where the IS is concentrating forces and attacking Kurds/Iraqi forces, and the B-52 need to be loaded, to dump on the IS concentrations, like around Kobani, followed through close in with AC 130s.
    At the current rate of strikes, the number of jihadis crossing into Syria appears to be outstripping the number put out of action; if the latest estimates in the media are correct ~40,000, that is a 10,000 increase from early in the year (~March estimates), if true, that is ~25,000 strikes at least = 8,300 strikes/yr ~ 30 effective strikes per day 24/7 at least.
    The Turkish offer of ground forces, for establishing/maintaining a humanitarian safe zone in North Eastern Syria, is a great offer.

    by: James Carmack from: United States
    September 27, 2014 4:12 PM
    Rudy Haugeneder, are you REALLY that naive? Do you think that if you bury your head in the sand that this problem will just go away. People that think like you is one of the major reasons that Islam has infiltrated so many western nations and is currently terrorizing much of the world.

    by: mr. Tinkleweewee from: usa
    September 27, 2014 3:03 PM
    The FBI is notorious for recruiting and framing terror patsies. A report compiled by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley found that of the 158 prosecutions carried out on terrorism charges since 9/11, 49 defendants participated in plots that were arranged by FBI agent provocateurs. “They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror,” explained Martin Stolar, a lawyer who represented a suspect involved in a New York City bombing plot contrived by FBI agents.

    by: Rudy Haugeneder from: Canada
    September 27, 2014 2:59 PM
    As a Canadian I say Canada must not get involved and immediately withdraw all its military forces from the Middle East region, even if it must withdraw from Nato. The Persian Gulf monarchies, Israel, the UK and France, and especially the United States and its military adventures created this ISIL — Islamic State — problem and it is up to them to solve it.
    In Response

    by: Matthew from: Minnesota USA
    September 27, 2014 9:54 PM
    Hi Rudy, I understand you entitle to your opinion. How does the United States and allied created such a problems? Can you explain to me in details?
    In Response

    by: RCJones from: USA
    September 27, 2014 4:44 PM
    Typical Canadian. Lets see what happens to Canada when someone attacks them and the US is not there to protect them. They couldn't defend themselves against an armed militia from a third world country.
    In Response

    by: Karl from: Milwaukee
    September 27, 2014 4:06 PM
    That's a very Canadian thing to say.

    by: dr reality check from: USA
    September 27, 2014 12:14 PM
    Here we go again; Americans have been successfully lied into another war, as with Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq X3 and Libya. Each
    one made defense contractors richer and ended in complete failure and disaster. We fall for it every time.

    The "rebels" we arm and train on the ground are terrorists and will use this to kill Americans. They're the same people we're bombing in the air.

    Assad is evil, but if he falls, Al Qaeda/ISIS will run Syria very quickly. All remaining Christians there will be killed. How is this an improvement? We armed and supported Bin Laden and Al Qaeda when they fought the Russians and 9/11 was our reward.

    Never have we had a more war mongering, incompetent and failed foreign policy. Barack Cheney Bush has brought us from rags to ruin in 14 years. The candidates in 2016 are apparently both war mongers. We are truly toast.

    Bill Clinton was the only successful President in decades, who kept us out of war and balanced the budget. There is no chance of a successful president from 2001 thru 2020.

    by: Peter Okechukwu from: Lagos, Nigeria.
    September 27, 2014 11:05 AM
    Lavrov must know know that coalition forces against IS does not really require consent from Syrian government. The government has already lost control of the parts of Syria, that IS controls. IS has created an unrecognised state, which must erased, with or without assistance from Syrian government.

    by: Peter Okechukwu from: Lagos, Nigeria.
    September 27, 2014 11:05 AM
    Lavrov must know know that coalition forces against IS does not really require consent from Syrian government. The government has already lost control of the parts of Syria, that IS controls. IS has created an unrecognised state, which must erased, with or without assistance from Syrian government.
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