Tuesday, April 23, 2019 | ePaper

US-led coalition hits mosque in Syria used by Islamic State

  • Print


Civilians flee fighting near Baghouz, Syria. Fierce fighting was underway Monday between U.S.-backed Syrian forces and the Islamic State group around the extremists' last foothold in eastern Syria.

AP, Beirut  :
The U.S.-led coalition says it has hit a mosque used by the Islamic State group as a command and control center in eastern Syria.
The coalition said Tuesday it launched the strike in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to drive the extremists from their last tiny stronghold near the border with Iraq.
It said the strike occurred Monday as IS was using the mosque to direct attacks and employ suicide car bombs against the SDF.
The coalition's deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, was quoted in the statement as saying "this mosque lost its protected status when ISIS deliberately chose to use it as a command and control center."
The SDF on Saturday launched its final push to clear the area after months of fighting.
Meanwhile, a war monitor said a coalition air strike killed 16 civilians including seven children trying to flee the holdout on Monday, but the US-led alliance was not immediately available for comment.
More than four years after the extremists declared a "caliphate" across large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, several offensives have whittled that down to a tiny scrap of land in eastern Syria.
The final push to expel hundreds of diehard jihadists from that patch on the Iraq border was announced Saturday by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
On Monday the US-led coalition maintained a steady beat of bombings on the area as the SDF faced ferocious resistance.
The sound of explosions echoed dozens of kilometres (miles) away and columns of dark grey smoke could be seen from SDF territory.
"Heavy clashes are ongoing to pressure IS into surrendering," said Rami Abdel Rahman, chief of Britain-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory said 12 SDF fighters and 19 jihadists were killed in the fighting on Monday.
SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said the force responded after IS launched a counterattack earlier in the day. He also said there were "dozens of SDF hostages held by IS" inside their last foothold, but denied reports of executions.
US President Donald Trump said on Monday that the coalition may declare victory over IS in the region in the coming days.
"Our brave warriors have liberated virtually 100 percent of ISIS (territory) in Iraq and Syria... soon it will be announced, soon, maybe over the next week, maybe less, but it will be announced we have 100 percent," he told a rally in the US city of El Paso.
·Backed by coalition air strikes, the SDF alliance has been battling to oust the jihadists from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor since September.
Since December, tens of thousands of people, most women and children related to IS fighters, have fled the shrinking jihadist holdout into SDF territory.
US-backed forces have screened the new arrivals, weeding out potential jihadists for questioning.
On Monday, dozens of coalition and SDF fighters were stationed at a screening point for new arrivals from IS areas. Coalition forces stood over about 20 men who were crouching on the ground.
Two French women told AFP they paid smugglers to take them out of the battered IS-held holdout of Baghouz, but Iraqi jihadists had prevented other foreigners from leaving. "They said only the Syrians and Iraqis can be smuggled out," said one of the women, who said her first name was Christelle, from the city of Bordeaux.
The Observatory said 600 people including around 20 suspected jihadists fled IS areas overnight.
On Saturday, the alliance had said up to 600 jihadists as well as hundreds of civilians could remain inside the IS patch of four square kilometres (one square mile).
Spokesman Bali said IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the man who pronounced the cross-border "caliphate" in 2014, was not among them, and likely not in Syria. At the height of their rule, IS imposed their brutal interpretation of Islamic law on a territory roughly the size of Britain.
But military offensives in both countries, including by the SDF, have since retaken the vast bulk of their territory.

More News For this Category

New quake strikes as Philippines hunts for survivors

New quake strikes as Philippines hunts for survivors

AFP  :Philippine rescuers were scrambling Tuesday to reach some two dozen people feared buried under a building near Manila that collapsed a day earlier in a deadly earthquake, as a

Probe shows Sri Lanka attacks 'retaliation for Christchurch': Govt

Probe shows Sri Lanka attacks 'retaliation for Christchurch': Govt

AFP :Islamist suicide bombings that killed more than 300 people in Sri Lanka at the weekend were carried out in revenge for last month's attacks on two mosques in New

Kim-Putin: North Korean and Russian leaders to meet for first time

Kim-Putin: North Korean and Russian leaders to meet for first time

North Korean state media has confirmed that leader Kim Jong-un will travel to Russia "soon" for his first ever meeting with Vladimir Putin.While no date has been announced, the Kremlin

Trump says Congress 'can't impeach' him

Trump says Congress 'can't impeach' him

AFP ;US President Donald Trump said Monday that Congress "can't impeach" him over the findings of the Mueller report into Russian election meddling and his alleged attempts to hamper the

Innovative child malaria vaccine to be tested in Malawi

A large-scale trial of what has been called the world's first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children is due to start in Malawi.The RTS,S vaccine trains the immune

Sudan's military council warns against road blocks as protests continue

Sudan's military council warns against road blocks as protests continue

Reuters, Khartoum : Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) warned on Monday against protesters blocking roads and limiting the movement of citizens as protests continued after president Omar al-Bashir was forced

Top Democrats leave open option of Trump impeachment after Mueller report

Top Democrats leave open option of Trump impeachment after Mueller report

Reuters, Washington :Top congressional Democrats left the door open on Sunday to the impeachment of US President Donald Trump, but said they would first need to complete their own investigations

News In Brief

Cambodian, Thai leaders mark reopening of rail linkAP, Phnom PenhThe leaders of Cambodia and Thailand met Monday at the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet to mark the ceremonial reopening of

Egyptians vote in referendum to extend Sisi's rule

Egyptians vote in referendum to extend Sisi's rule

AFP, Cairo :Egyptians start voting Saturday in a referendum that aims to cement the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former coup leader presenting himself as a rock

Turkey arrests suspected spies for UAE, investigating Khashoggi link

Turkey arrests suspected spies for UAE, investigating Khashoggi link

Reuters, Ankara :Turkey has arrested two suspects who confessed to spying on Arab nationals for the United Arab Emirates, and is investigating whether the arrival in Turkey of one