WASHINGTON (AP) – Combined US-Arab airstrikes hit Islamic State military strongholds in Syria and Iraq, and a simultaneous US strike targeted an al-Qaeda cell said to be plotting direct assaults on American and other Western interests, the US military said Tuesday.
President Barack Obama declared that Arab support for the airstrikes “makes it clear to the world this is not America’s fight alone”.
“We’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the regime and for the entire world,” Obama said as he left Washington for meetings of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Army Gen Martin Dempsey, the top American military official, said the US and its Arab allies achieved their aim of showing the extremists that their attacks will not go unanswered.
The US and five Arab nations attacked the Islamic State group’s headquarters in eastern Syria in nighttime raids Monday using land- and sea-based US aircraft as well as Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf.
“These strikes were very successful,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
In Syria, activists said the strikes hit targets in and around the city of Raqqa and the province with the same name.
Raqqa is the Islamic State group’s self-declared capital in Syria.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told The Associated Press, “There is confirmed information that there are casualties among Islamic State group members.”
The strikes weren’t coordinated with the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, said Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, but he added: “There was no resistance, no interaction with Syrian air forces or military defenses.”
Apparently trying to position his government on the side of the airstrikes, Assad said Tuesday that he supported any international effort against terrorism.
He spoke during a meeting with Faleh al-Fayadh, an envoy of Iraq’s prime minister.
American warplanes also carried out eight airstrikes to disrupt what the military described as “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests” by the shadowy Khorosan Group, a network of al-Qaeda veterans working with the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to get foreign fighters with
Western passports and explosives to target US aviation.
Obama said the US was “proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with Arab partners, and he called the roll: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar.