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ISIS offensive poses problems for Turkey

23 September 2014, 10:46

Suruc - Fierce fighting on Monday between the Islamic State militant group and Kurdish forces just over the border in Syria brought the battle closer to Turkey, triggering a surge of tens of thousands of refugees and raising pressure for the government to step up efforts to take on the Sunni extremists.

Meanwhile, the United States and five Arab countries launched the first airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State fighters.

The Islamic State group's offensive against the Syrian city of Kobani, a few kilometres from the border, has sent 130 000 refugees to seek safety in Turkey in the last few days.

The conflict in Syria had already led to more than one million people flooding over the border in the past 3½ years.

First wave of strikes

As the fighting intensified near the Turkish border, the Pentagon said a mix of manned aircraft — fighter jets and bombers — plus Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from US ships in the northern Persian Gulf and the Red Sea targeted the Islamic State group in Syria.

US officials said the airstrikes began around 20:30, and were conducted by the US, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, but the operation was expected to continue for several more hours, according to one US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly by name about an ongoing mission.

Also read: Australia treating ISIS kill threat as genuine

Because the military operation was ongoing, no details could be provided yet, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary. He said the military made the decision to strike early Monday. A White House official said Obama was being updated.

Some of the airstrikes were against Islamic State group headquarters in Raqqa in eastern Syria. Military officials have said the US would target militants' command and control centers, re-supply facilities, training camps and other key logistical sites.

- AP


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