The United States and five partner Arab nations carried out the first air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, the Pentagon said late Monday, in ongoing operations that mark the opening of a new, far more complicated front in battle against the militants.
"I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles," Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. "Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time."
ABC News reported that the fighters included B-1 bombers and for the first time in combat history, the controversial stealth F-22 Raptor.
An estimated 70 Islamic State fighters have been killed in U.S.-led airstrikes on the group's positions in northern and eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A further 300 extremists are estimated to have been injured, the group said.Fifty Al Qaida-linked Nusra Front fighters were killed in strikes over the course of the morning in the northwestern province of Syria. Eight civilians, including three children, were also among the fatalities in the strikes on Aleppo.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry released a statement on Tuesday morning saying that the country was ready to cooperate with any international efforts to fight terrorism, and that it would not stop fighting the Islamic State. Russia, a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad's regime, early condemned the strike for having not been coordinated with Syria.
The U.S. CENTCOM said in a statement said the U.S. had launched strikes from warships in international waters in the Red Sea and the North Arabian Gulf. It said Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi and the UAE had "also participated in or supported the air strikes against (Islamic State) targets. All aircraft safely exited the strike areas," it said. NATO said on Tuesday it was not involved in the strikes .
The United States and its Arab allies hit Islamic State targets including training camps, headquarters and weapon supplies in northern and eastern Syria in dozens of air and missile strikes on Tuesday, the U.S. military and a monitoring group said.
The CENTCOM statement added the U.S. military had taken action to disrupt "imminent attack" against the U.S. and Western interests by "seasoned Al-Qaida veterans" who had established a safe haven in Syria. "These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets," it said.
At least 30 air strikes hit Islamic State targets in Syria by Tuesday morning, according to initial reports released. At least 30 fighters from the Nusra Front were killed in the strikes, according to a group monitoring the war. Eight civilians, including three children, were also killed.
An Islamic State fighter said on Tuesday the group will respond to U.S.-led air strikes inside Syria and blamed Saudi Arabia for allowing them to happen.
"These attacks will be answered. The sons of Saloul are the ones who are to be blamed. It happened because of them," he told Reuters, using a derogatory term for Saudi Arabia's royal Saudi family.
Syria's Western-backed National Coalition opposition group welcomed air strikes by the United States and Gulf Arab allies on Islamic State strongholds in Syria on Tuesday, saying they would strengthen its struggle against Assad.
"This will make us stronger in the fight against Assad... The campaign should continue until the Islamic State is completely eradicated from Syrian lands," Monzer Akbik, special envoy to the president of the coalition, told Reuters.
Obama authorized air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria almost two weeks ago and was briefed on U.S. war plans last week by the U.S. military's Central Command. But Obama held off on approving those plans as diplomats pushed ahead with efforts to forge a coalition.
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