The USS Arleigh Burke launches Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles against the Islamic State inside Syria. Forty-seven cruise missiles were launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea in the opening round of strikes in Syria.
The United States and “partner nation forces” have expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State into Syria, broadening the war with the jihadist group beyond Iraq. Additionally, the US targeted the Khorasan Group, a coordinating council made up of al Qaeda leaders in Syria.
US military officials involved in the operation told The Long War Journal that the strike package includes US B-1 bombers, carrier-based F/A-18 fighters and ground-based F-15s and F-16s, remotely piloted drones, and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships.
Airstrikes targeted Islamic State command and control centers in Raqqah, the jihadist group’s de facto capital in Raqqah province in eastern Syria, as well as arms caches, supply depots, and ground units near the Iraqi border.
Rear Admiral James Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, confirmed that airstrikes have begun.
“I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL [Islamic State] terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” Kirby said in a statement obtained by The Long War Journal.
In the early morning of Sept. 23, US Central Command, or CENTCOM, which is directing the operations in Iraq and Syria, provided further details of the attack.
Fourteen strikes against the Islamic State were executed using by “a mix of fighters, bombers, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” according to a statement by CENTCOM. Forty-seven cruise missiles were “launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, which were operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf.”
“The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of the towns of Raqqah in north central Syria, Dier al Zour, and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Hasakah in northeastern Syria,” the statement says. “The targets included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles.” According to the Syrian Observator for Human Rights, more than 70 Islamic State fighters were killed in the strikes and and over 300 were wounded.
Other countries that participated in the operation include Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Additionally, the US launched eight airstrikes against “a network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans – sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group – who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.” The strikes targeted “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities” as part of an effort “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.”
CENTCOM did not provide details on the names or numbers of Islamic State and al Qaeda fighters killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “no less than 50 fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra (most of them were Syrian fighters), were killed by air strikes by the warplanes of the international coalition.” In addition, eight civilians, including three children and a women, are reported to have been killed.
CENTCOM was clear that only the US targeted al Qaeda’s network in Syria. The Khorasan Group is closely tied to the Al Nusrah Front and other jihadist groups in Syria, which are at odds with the Islamic State. These groups are poised to gain from any setbacks to the rival Islamic State.
President Barrack Obama stated 13 days ago that the US air campaign against the Islamic State, which began in northern Iraq on Aug. 7, would be expanded into Syria. US and French warplanes are now operating over Irbil, Sinjar, Kirkuk, the Mosul and Haditha dams, southwest of Baghdad (likely in Jurf al Sakhar in northern Babil), and somewhere on the Euphrates River. According to CENTCOM, the US has launched 194 airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 7.
The Islamic State has threatened to retaliate against the US and other Western countries that participate in military action against the jihadist group. Just yesterday, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the spokesman for the Islamic State, called for Muslims in Western countries to wage jihad. [See Threat Matrix report, Islamic State spokesman again threatens West in new speech.]
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