Iraqi air strikes hit IS in east Syria: Monitor

AFP , Saturday 19 Jan 2019

At least 20 Islamic State group jihadists were killed Saturday in Iraqi air raids on their embattled enclave in eastern Syria, a war monitor reported.

The raids come a day after a US-led air strike on the Euphrates Valley village of Baghouz killed six civilians, including four children, and 10 IS fighters, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

There were no immediate comments from the Iraqi army or from the US-led coalition.

Baghouz is part of an enclave of less than 15 square kilometres (less than six square miles) that is all that is left of IS territory in eastern Syria after a gruelling Kurdish-led offensive launched with coalition support.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that Saturday's air strikes "carried out by Iraqi aircraft killed at least 20 IS fighters in Baghouz".

He said at the same time the Iraqi army units stationed nearby on the border with Syria fired artillery.

Abdel Rahman said the US-led coalition had stepped up its air strikes against IS since the jihadists killed 19 people, four of them Americans, in a suicide bombing on a restaurant in the flashpoint northern town of Manbij on Wednesday.

"The strikes are continuing, and have intensified since the Manbij attack," he said on Saturday.

"Residential buildings in Barghouz were hit," he said.

Wednesday's US losses were the biggest since Washington deployed troops in Syria in 2014 in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Previously it had reported just two combat losses in separate incidents.

The Manbij bombing rekindled controversy triggered by President Donald Trump last month with his surprise announcement of a full withdrawal from Syria.

The US president justified the order with the assertion that the jihadists had now been "largely defeated" in Syria, a claim that the attack threw into renewed question.

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