US coalition, Russia intensify airstrikes on ISIS in Syria

2015-11-18 18:33
A French soldier prepares a Rafale fighter jet as the army conducts operations against ISIS. (Karim Sahib, AFP)

A French soldier prepares a Rafale fighter jet as the army conducts operations against ISIS. (Karim Sahib, AFP)

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Beirut - A US-led alliance and Russia have separately stepped up airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria, activists reported on Wednesday, after the extremist militia claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks internationally.

Warplanes, believed to be Russian, on Wednesday carried out at least 12 air raids against ISIS in the oil-rich province of Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. No casualties were reported.

Islamic State has taken credit for downing last month's Russian airliner in Egypt, killing all 224 people on board.

On Tuesday, Moscow confirmed the plane was brought down by a terrorist bomb and vowed retaliation.

In recent weeks, the US-led air coalition destroyed oil facilities controlled by Islamic State in Deir al-Zour.

The al-Qaeda splinter group controls large regions of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, deriving some of its revenues from selling oil on the black market.

The Britain-based Observatory said that at least 33 militants have been killed in US-led airstrikes on Islamic State's stronghold in northern Syria over the past three days.

Dozens of Islamic State fighters were wounded in the strikes, in which French jets took part, pounding the radical militia's de facto capital of al-Raqqa.

The bombardment targeted the militants' arms depots, barracks and checkpoints, said Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Observatory.

France has intensified its aerial campaign on al-Raqqa following Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, also claimed by Islamic State.

Abdel-Rahman said ISIS had taken extra precautions and moved some of its bases to other areas under its control.

The militant Sunni group has also claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings last week in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement. At least 43 were killed in the attacks.

The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle on Wednesday sailed from the southern city of Toulon to contribute to the efforts of the US-led military campaign against Islamic State in Syria, the AFP news agency reported.

The aircraft carrier, which has 26 fighter jets on board, will head to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which stretches off the coasts of Syria and Lebanon. The deployment had been announced by French President Francois Hollande on Monday.

Belgium will dispatch its Leopold frigate to escort the Charles de Gaulle, Defence Minister Steven Vandeput said, according to Belga news agency.

The Belgian frigate will serve to protect the aircraft carrier from aerial and underwater menaces.

Syria's al-Qaeda branch, al-Nusra Front, meanwhile claimed in a tweet that its fighters had downed two Russian reconnaissance planes in the northwestern province of Idlib.

The Syrian Observatory's Abdel-Rahman confirmed that two reconnaissance drones were downed by al-Nusra, but he could not confirm they were Russian.

"They might be Russian planes used by the Syrian army," he said. There was no official comment in Syria or Russia.

The Syrian army started to use Russian unmanned drones in the north and east on September 23, a week before Moscow launched an air campaign in the war-torn country.

Read more on:    isis  |  us  |  russia  |  france  |  northern africa  |  paris under attack

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