The second day of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria was much less intense than the first, when militant targets in the country's northwest, north and east were hit in 16 strikes.
Since early Tuesday, the U.S. military has conducted four airstrikes in Syria. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren, however, says the reduction in attacks is no reason to think the fight against terrorists in Syria is diminishing as the U.S. military collects more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information, or ISR.
“I think you’ll see a mix of what we have seen in Iraq over the last several weeks, which is the result of active ISR, armed ISR, where we’ll strike targets of opportunity when presented," said Colonel Warren.
The Pentagon says those "targets of opportunity" have not yet included individual leaders of the Islamic State or the Khorasan group, the al-Qaida affiliate struck by U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles late Monday. Regional media reported the leader of the Khorasan group was killed, but U.S. military officials stressed they do not have confirmation of his death at this time.
"We were targeting command and control facilities and if there were leaders in those command and control facilities, then we’re happy to see them no longer leading," said Warren.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says bombings overnight hit Islamic State-held territory in Syria near the Turkish border, but the Pentagon told reporters the U.S. military did not conduct strikes in that area.
Colonel Warren also said that the military's intelligence shows U.S. strikes in Syria have not killed any civilians. This contradicts claims from the Syrian Network for Human Rights that about a dozen civilians died in the first night of strikes in the country.
The latest bombing is the 20th in Syria since Tuesday, when Washington and five Arab allies began the air campaign by bombing Islamic State training facilities and command centers.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby says the U.S. also struck IS targets in Iraq on Wednesday near the Kurdish city of Irbil, and the capital, Baghdad.
Asked about reports that the leader of the Khorosan group had been killed during overnight strikes, a Pentagon official declined confirmation.
"We are not making confirmations either way," he said. "We believe our strikes in Syria were effective. We believe that we were targeting facilities that will degrade both ISIL operations in Syria as well as Khorasan. We just don’t have a confirmation to make at this point. We don’t have personnel on the ground to verify."
The official added that the U.S. airstrikes are not targeting individuals but rather command and control and "if there were leaders in those facilities then we’re happy to see them no longer leading."
The Islamic State has claimed territory in both countries in recent months.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports 120 militants belonging to the Islamic State and al-Qaida were killed in the first day of strikes.
The U.S. said Tuesday it attacked the Islamic State in Syria because the Syrian government cannot and will not stop the militants from setting up safe havens.
The initial strikes in Syria included help from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Netherlands to contribute F-16s
The Dutch government on Wednesday will discuss contributing four F-16 fighter jets to the U.S.-led military operation against Islamic State, national news agency ANP reported.
A special cabinet meeting was called by the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte for later Wednesday to consider what role the Netherlands should play in the air strikes against insurgents in Iraq and Syria.
The Netherlands was not among the nations approached by U.S. President Obama at a NATO meeting in Wales earlier this month, when he was building a coalition of allies against the hardline Islamic offshoot of al-Qaida.
The Dutch contribution had been on the agenda for a weekly cabinet meeting on Friday, but was brought forward in view of developments on the ground in Syria.
Dutch military participation would also have to be approved by the 150-seat parliament.
Nusra Front evacuates bases
Al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, has evacuated its bases in populated areas of the Idlib region in northwest Syria after U.S.-led forces carried out air strikes on the group, its fighters said on Wednesday.
Another Syrian Islamist group, Ahrar al-Sham, has also ordered its followers to evacuate bases, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.
"Heavy weapons have been moved out of the bases. We do not want civilians to be harmed because of us,'' one Nusra fighter said in an online message posted on the Internet.
The Observatory also reported the Nusra withdrawal.
At least 50 fighters from the Nusra Front and eight civilians were killed in strikes by a U.S.-led coalition in Syria on Tuesday, the Observatory said.
Carla Babb contributed to this report from the Pengagon, some material for this report came from Reuters
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