Date
22 September 2017
This picture from the US Navy website shows fighter planes preparing to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
This picture from the US Navy website shows fighter planes preparing to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

US, Arab strikes on militants in Syria ‘only the beginning’

The United States and its Arab allies launched overnight air strikes on sites under the control Islamist militants in Syria, and the US military said they were “only the beginning” of a coalition effort to weaken the extremists, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

US President Barack Obama confirmed that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar had taken part in or supported the strikes.

He said the US was “proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations”, BBC News reported.

Washington had warned Syria not to engage the US aircraft, although it had not requested permission or given advance notice of the timing of the attacks, US state department spokeswoman Jan Psaki was quoted as saying.

In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad was quoted by state media as saying that he supports any international efforts to combat “terrorism” in Syria.

At least 70 Islamic State militants and 50 other al-Qaeda-linked fighters were killed in the strikes, the BBC said.

Lieutenant General William Mayville Jr., a senior Pentagon official, said the strikes hit training camps, headquarters, vehicles and other sites under the control of the Islamic State, the militant group that took American and British hostages and beheaded some of them as they seized large parts of Iraq and Syria.

He said the strikes were the start “of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. 

The Arab nations took part in the second and third waves of attacks, staging combat air patrols and strikes, Mayville said.

He said the US strikes included the use of Tomahawk missiles, which targeted factories and camps belonging to the Khorasan group, a lesser-known organization which officials say was in the final stages of plotting “major attacks” on Western targets.

Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the group was a “network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans” that had sought shelter in Syria in order to manufacture explosives and recruit Western militants.

He said the strikes were “very successful”.

“I can tell you that last night’s strikes were only the beginning,” Kirby said.

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This picture from the US Navy website shows the USS Arleigh Burke launching Tomahawk cruise missiles in the Red Sea on Tuesday as part of strike missions against Islamic State in Syria. Photo: AFP


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