U.S. and its allies strike ISIS tank, refineries and checkpoints
The U.S. military and its allies hit ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq this weekend. While the scope of the airstrikes was not yet clear, several targets were hit, and the strikes appear to have succeeded.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates assisted with attacks in Syria on Saturday and Sunday, including two near Dayr ar Zawr that destroyed an ISIS tank, one in northeast Syria that destroyed three armed vehicles and a Humvee and strikes on “four (ISIS)-held modular refineries and an (ISIS) command and control node north of” Raqqa, a U.S. Central Command news release said.
“Although we continue to assess the outcome of these attacks, initial indications are that they were successful,” the statement said.
In Iraq, fighter jets and drones conducted four airstrikes: one near Baghdad that destroyed an ISIS safehouse and damaged a checkpoint and three near Falluja that destroyed two ISIS checkpoints and a transport vehicle, U.S. Central Command said.
But on the ground around the city of Kobani fierce battles raged between Kurdish forces and ISIS militants and were visible just across the border in Turkey on Saturday and Sunday.
ISIS forces appeared to slowly gain territory in their offensive to take over the Kurdish city and solidify ISIS control over the Syrian border with Turkey.
There have been several air strikes in the area, but eyewitnesses say the air strikes are too few and too far back from the front lines to slow the ISIS momentum.
“We need help. We need weapons. We need more effective airstrikes,” Kobani official Idriss Nassan said. “If the situation stays like this, we will see a massacre. I can’t imagine what will happen if ISIS gets inside Kobani.”
There was no word on casualties, but activists said the situation is growing more troubling, as power and water remain cut, food and basic supplies are running low and there is no humanitarian aid.
Many residents had already left the city and have sought refuge in Turkey, officials aid.
A CNN team on the Turkey-Syria border that witnessed some of the fighting said ISIS appeared to be pushing back toward Kobani’s eastern front.
The leader of Al Qaeda’s franchise in Syria made his first public statement in eight months Sunday, vowing to fight the United States and it’s allies. In a 25-minute audio recording Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, head of the al-Nusra militants, also warned his rebels not to accept intervention from the West in their own fight against ISIS. The two groups have been fighting since ISIS was disowned by al Qaeda’s central command earlier this year.
Also Sunday, the United States was working to confirm whether a leader of the Khorasan group was killed last week during an airstrike in Syria. The Khorasan group is an al Qaeda offshoot in Syria composed of what the U.S. says are “seasoned” terror operatives whose mission involves finding new ways to attack the United States and Europe.
Though there were numerous reports that jihadists were offering condolences following the senior al Qaeda operative’s death, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told CNN on Sunday morning he can’t confirm the reports.
Blinken’s remarks came as President Barack Obama, in an interview with “60 Minutes” set to air Sunday night, said Syria had become “ground zero for jihadists around the world.”
U.S. forces and Sunni tribes were able to weaken al Qaeda in Iraq, but rather than defeat AQI, they pushed the group underground, he said.
“Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos — and attract foreign fighters, who believed in their jihadist nonsense and traveled everywhere from Europe to the United States to Australia to other parts of the Muslim world, converging on Syria,” Obama said.
The President also said the United States had underestimated ISIS’ capabilities while overestimating the Iraqi military’s will to fight.