Associated Press & Lin Jenkins / The Guardian – 2015-07-07 00:55:23
US-led Air Strikes Hit ISIS Stronghold of Raqqa
BEIRUT (July 5, 2015) — US-led coalition aircraft have conducted a series of air strikes targeting the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria, killing at least 10 militants and wounding many others, in one of the largest such operations in the country to date.
At least 16 air strikes were reported late on Saturday and early on Sunday. The US-led coalition often targets ISIS-held towns and cities in Syria, but the overnight strikes on Raqqa were unusual in their intensity.
A US military spokesman said the air strikes had destroyed ISIS-controlled structures and transit routes. “The significant air strikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq,” said Lt Col Thomas Gilleran, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“This was one of the largest deliberate engagements we have conducted to date in Syria, and it will have debilitating effects on Daesh’s ability to move” from Raqqa, he said.
Raqqa is the de facto capital of the Iraqi and Syrian territory ISIS declared an Islamic caliphate a year ago.
An ISIS-affiliated website confirmed the strikes on the centre of the city, saying 10 people had been killed and dozens wounded. It also published photographs purportedly showing victims, including two of young boys, and suggested they were civilians.
A Raqqa-based anti-ISIS network said eight civilians including a 10-year-old child had been killed. The report could not be independently confirmed.
The network, called Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, said at least one air strike targeted a group of ISIS members in the city centre. Another targeted a checkpoint and a third destroyed large parts of a brick factory.
In the remote northeastern city of Hassake, ISIS suicide bombers detonated a truck packed with explosives near a main power plant on Sunday. The state-run Sana news agency reported casualties and material damage at the plant on the southern edge of the city.
Fighting has intensified in Hassake since ISIS attacked several southern neighbourhoods held by government troops this month. The violence has prompted tens of thousands of residents to flee.
The predominantly Kurdish city was split between government forces and Kurdish fighters, who have been fighting ISIS separately.
In Iraq, a defence ministry statement said government forces had repelled an ISIS attack on the town of Haditha and a nearby dam in western Anbar province on Sunday morning.
At least 20 militants were killed in the failed attack, the statement said. Iraqi forces backed by Shia militias have struggled to recapture northern and western areas of the country from the militants.
In May, ISIS overran Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, but Haditha and other towns remain under government control.
ISIS Video Shows Killing of
Syrian Troops at Palmyra Amphitheatre
Lin Jenkins / The Guardian
PALMYRA, Syria (July 4, 2015) — A video purportedly showing Islamic State militants shooting dead 25 men in the amphitheatre in the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria has been posted online.
The footage apparently shows the murder of soldiers fighting for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who were captured in Homs. It was distributed by accounts known to be linked with Islamic State militants. Stills from the video show the killers to be young, possibly in their early teens. They are pictured holding guns and dressed in desert camouflage and brown bandanas.
Close-up shots of the soldiers on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs appear to show that they have been beaten. Hundreds of men in civilian clothes are shown sitting watching the slaughter on the steps in front of a stage with the backdrop of a large ISIS flag.
A man stands in front of the flag and addresses the gathering before a command is given and the condemned soldiers are killed simultaneously with a shot to the head from the young killers standing directly behind them.
It is not clear when the filming took place but it was not the first such killings in the famous Roman amphitheatre. Days after ISIS captured Palmyra in late May the terrorist group killed 20 men in the same location, which had formerly been used for an annual festival in the city and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in the UK, said at the time that residents near the site were rounded up and forced to watch the killings of the men, who were accused of being government supporters.
ISIS reportedly carried out more than 200 killings, including of civilians, in and around Palmyra in the period when it captured the city. The group is known for using children as suicide bombers and soldiers.
Reports suggest that at least 500 have been kidnapped in recent weeks, and Iraqi police said children were being brainwashed into joining the militants. The children were snatched from Iraq’s Anbar and Diyala provinces and taken to the group’s bases, where they are trained for use in “terror attacks”, according to Iraqi authorities.
In May, Mamoun Abdelkarim, Syria’s head of antiquities, said he feared the killings could signal the start of “the group’s barbarism and savagery against the ancient monuments of Palmyra”. He said: “Using the Roman theatre to execute people proves that these people are against humanity.” Abdelkarim said most of the artefacts from Palmyra’s museum had been sent to Damascus before ISIS approached the city.
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