Iraqi Airstrikes Target ISIS Militants in Syria for First Time

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Smoke rises Iraqi security forces deploy inside Mosul's international airport, Iraq, Feb. 24. 2017.
Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces deploy inside Mosul's international airport, Iraq, Feb. 24. 2017. Credit: Khalid Mohammed/AP

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi said on Friday he had ordered the Iraqi air force to strike Islamic State positions inside Syria in retaliation for recent bomb attacks in Baghdad. 

It appeared to be the first time Iraqi jets have conducted such raids across the border. A Syrian source said the strikes had been coordinated with Damascus.

Islamic State, which is on the defensive after losing control of eastern Mosul to a U.S.-backed Iraqi military offensive, has claimed responsibility for several car bombs in Baghdad in the past few weeks. 

"We are determined to chase terrorism that tries to kill our sons and citizens wherever it is found, so we gave orders to the air force command to strike Islamic State positions in (Iraqi town) Hosaiba and Albu Kamal inside Syrian territory as they were responsible for recent bombings in Baghdad," Abbadi said in a statement. 

"The heroes of the sky executed the operation and responded to the terrorists with amazing success." 

The source close to the Syrian foreign ministry said there had been "complete coordination" with the Damascus government, but did not elaborate. 

A separate statement by the Joint Operations Command said that the strikes had taken place on Friday morning using F16 fighter jets and had destroyed Islamic State headquarters in Albu Kamal. 

"The strikes targeted Islamic State's headquarters used for making car bombs in Albu Kamal ... after Iraqi intelligence received tips from their sources inside Syria," a senior security official told Reuters. 

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces have dislodged Islamic State from most of the cities it captured in 2014 and 2015. The militants also control parts of Syria. 

Iraqi government forces last month captured eastern Mosul and have now launched an offensive on the western side. The city is divided in two halves by the Tigris river. 

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