US leads airstrike attack on Islamic State in eastern Syria

A US-led coalition aircraft has launched multiple airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group's stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria.

Rodi Said/Reuters/File
Residents queue to buy bread in the town of Tel Abyad, Raqqa governorate, June 19, 2015. A US-led coalition aircraft has launched multiple airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group's stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria.

U.S.-led coalition aircraft unleashed a series of airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group's stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria, killing at least 10 militants and wounding many others in one of the largest coalition operations carried out in Syria to date, the coalition said Sunday.

At least 16 airstrikes were reported late Saturday and early Sunday, triggering successive explosions that shook the city and created panic among residents, activists said. The U.S.-led coalition often targets IS-held towns and cities in Syria, but the overnight strikes on Raqqa were rare in their intensity.

In a statement issued early Sunday, the coalition said it had conducted 16 airstrikes throughout Raqqa, destroying vital IS-controlled structures and transit routes in Syria.

"The significant airstrikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq," said coalition spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

"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.

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic caliphate declared a year ago by the Islamic State group in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.

An IS-affiliated militant website confirmed the strikes on the center of the city, saying 10 people were killed and dozens wounded. It also published purported photos of dead victims, including two of young boys suggesting they were civilians.

A Raqqa-based anti-IS activist network reported eight civilians were killed by the coalition airstrikes, including a 10-year-old child. The report could not be independently confirmed.

The network, called Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered, said at least one airstrike targeted a group of IS members in the city center. Another targeted an IS checkpoint while a third destroyed large parts of an IS-held brick factory in the city.

In the remote northeastern city of Hassakeh, IS suicide bombers detonated an explosives-laden truck near a main power plant Sunday. State-run news agency SANA reported casualties and material damage in the power plant on the southern edge of the city.

Fighting has raged in Hassakeh since the IS group attacked several southern neighborhoods held by government troops earlier this month. The violence has forced tens of thousands of residents to flee. The predominantly Kurdish city was split between government forces and Kurdish fighters, who have been fighting the IS group separately.

The coalition regularly targets the Islamic State group, which controls about a third of Iraq and Syria.

In Iraq, a Defense Ministry statement said government forces repelled an IS attack on a town and a vital dam in Anbar province after IS fighters launched an offensive on the town of Haditha and the nearby Haditha dam Sunday morning.

At least 20 militants were killed in the failed attack, said the statement, which did not provide any further information.

Iraqi forces, backed by Shiite militias, have been struggling to recapture areas lost to the IS group in the country's west and north.

In May, the militant group scored a stunning victory, overrunning Ramadi, the provincial capital of western Anbar province. Yet, Haditha and some other towns remain under control of government forces and allied Sunni tribal fighters.

Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.