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News, July 2015
31 Afghanis, 28 Syrians Killed in US and Syrian Air Strikes Targeting Islamic State Fighters
July 11, 2015
Inherent Resolve Airstrikes Target ISIL in Syria, Iraq
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 30, 2015 Ė U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Airstrikes in Syria
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes in Syria:
-- Near Hasakah, seven airstrikes struck five ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL vehicles, an ISIL armored personnel carrier and an ISIL tank.
-- Near Raqqah, an airstrike struck an ISIL excavator.
-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft conducted nine airstrikes in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Baghdadi, three airstrikes struck land features, denying ISIL a tactical advantage and destroying two ISIL excavators.
-- Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL tunnel system.
-- Near Haditha, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying two ISIL vehicles.
-- Near Mosul, two airstrikes struck an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL mortar firing position, destroying an ISIL building.
-- Near Waleed, an airstrike destroyed three ISIL armored personnel carriers.
Part of Operation Inherent Resolve
The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Iraq's Shi'ite militias target Falluja in Anbar campaign
ERBIL, Iraq/WASHINGTON | By Ahmed Rasheed and Phil Stewart
ERBIL, Iraq/WASHINGTON Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters are tightening a noose around the Islamic State-held city of Falluja west of Baghdad as the first stage of a counter-offensive in the Sunni province of Anbar, likely to determine the course of the conflict in coming months.
Islamic State seized Anbar's capital Ramadi two months ago, extending its control over the Euphrates River Valley west of Baghdad and dealing a major setback to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the U.S.-backed army he entrusted with its defense.
While the government initially vowed to swiftly recapture Ramadi, it now appears to have turned instead to Falluja, a city located further downriver and closer to Baghdad, meaning supply lines for a counter-offensive would be less vulnerable.
Colonel Ali al-Yasiri, commander of Iraq's 4th armored regiment, 1st division, which is fighting near Falluja, said plans for a quick offensive to retake Ramadi were shelved in June after commanders concluded that Falluja would be "a dagger pointed at the army in Ramadi" unless it was tackled first.
"Our commanders gave us orders one week after losing Ramadi to regroup ... in order to launch a counter offensive to retake Ramadi," he told Reuters. "This decision failed to win support from all military commanders."
As the government seeks to claw back territory, Abadi has turned to the mainly Shi'ite Hashid Shaabi militia fighters who have proven more successful than the army on the ground.
In April, the militia recaptured the city of Tikrit, former dictator Saddam Hussein's home town on the Tigris River north of Baghdad. But until the fall of Ramadi in May, the government was reluctant to deploy the Shi'ite fighters west of Baghdad in the valley of Iraq's other great river, the Euphrates, where Sunni tribes have been hostile to outsiders for generations.
The army seems to be taking advantage of the extra capabilities offered by the militia umbrella group, which includes Iranian-backed elements. Yasiri welcomed the Hashid's involvement, saying the army had struggled unsuccessfully for 18 months to contain Sunni insurgents in Anbar.
Abadi and the army can rely on U.S.-led air strikes, more closely coordinated since U.S. officers moved into a military base less than 10 miles (15 km) from Falluja and started overseeing training of Sunni tribal recruits there.
Jets and artillery have been pounding militant targets in both Falluja and Ramadi, inflicting heavy daily casualties on militants and civilians alike, according to medical sources.
But a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested a lack of Iraqi army control of militia activities in Falluja would prevent the kind of air support for the campaign that the United States has offered elsewhere in Iraq.
MILITIA IN LEAD
Shi'ite militia figures say they will take the lead on the ground, not the army.
"Hashid forces are closing in on Daesh terrorists inside Falluja after seizing almost all supply routes around the city," said Muen al-Kadhimi, a senior aide to Hadi al-Ameri, commander of the Iranian-backed Badr organization, the most powerful of Iraq's armed Shi'ite groups.
Shi'ite fighters and army troops have made gains north of Falluja this week, although they faced heavy resistance from Islamic State fighters who sent car bombs to stem the advances. Authorities say they already control Falluja's eastern, southern and western approaches.
Tribal and insurgent sources in Anbar reported an Islamic State attack early on Friday in villages between Falluja and Ramadi, which lie about 40 km (25 miles) apart on the Euphrates. But their opponents insist the campaign to retake Anbar is on track.
"Now we are only 5 km (3 miles) from the center of Falluja and the plan to liberate the city is going perfectly," said Kadhimi.
He confirmed the strategy of retaking Falluja before the provincial capital: "We canít go to Ramadi first and leave our back exposed. This is why Falluja is a prior target."
Falluja saw the fiercest fighting of the U.S. occupation which followed Washington's 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, and has also been a center of Sunni hostility to the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.
Washington, which criticized the Iraqi military for allowing Ramadi to fall, has supported its decision not to rush to recapture it.
"The Ramadi campaign, which about a month ago was about to
be executed precipitously, has actually been, with our help... a very deliberate campaign," the top U.S. military officer General Martin Dempsey said this week.
Along with the shift in tactics after Ramadi's fall came recriminations, with Abadi sending his army chief of staff into retirement and suggesting the army's withdrawal in mid-May directly contravened instructions.
"If the orders had been carried out, Ramadi would not have
fallen," the prime minister said. Dempsey, welcoming the retirement of General Babaker Zebari, said there had been "issues up and down the chain of command" in the Iraqi military.
Yasiri, the army colonel, said army operations in Anbar had been troubled from the start.
"Troops were deployed in Anbar to fight insurgents since late 2013 and what was supposed to be a smooth operation to take out scattered terrorist groups turned out to be a war of attrition," he said. "With lack of military equipment, soldiers and effective air force, our troops started to lose initiative."
The loss of Ramadi was the army's worst defeat since Islamic State militants swept through north Iraq last summer, and pushed plans for an eventual offensive against the Islamists' northern stronghold Mosul further back.
While the army was forced on the defensive, militia leaders have moved into Anbar with their fighters. Photographs have also circulated purporting to show Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, in the western province. Iran's support for the Shi'ite militia is uncomfortable for Washington.
Lawrence al-Hardan, a Sunni tribal sheikh from Anbar, said tribes had urged the army to drive Islamic State from Falluja well before the fall of Ramadi because "the masterminds of Daesh use Falluja as a launch pad in almost all attacks in Anbar."
"Until now I can't figure out why security forces failed to retake one inch of Falluja," he said.
But former General Jasim al-Bahadli said the army was not trained enough in guerrilla warfare to tackle Islamic State.
Only the Hashid Shaabi fighters, their skills honed by Iranian support and the experience some have of fighting in neighboring Syria, could defeat the hard-line insurgents.
"Hashid is growing into an elite force, without which the army canít win a war," he said.
Monitor: Syrian air strike kills 28 in Islamic State-held town
Sat Jul 11, 2015 8:20am EDT
A group monitoring the Syrian war said an army air strike on an Islamic State-controlled town in the north killed at least 28 people including three children on Saturday, though the military denied the report.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization that monitors the war via a network of activists on the ground, said 19 civilians were among the dead in a helicopter attack on al-Bab, 30 km (20 miles) northeast of Aleppo.
A Syrian military source said the army had not carried out any air strikes in al-Bab on Saturday.
A U.S.-led coalition is waging a separate campaign of air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, but rejects the idea of partnering with President Bashar al-Assad, who it sees as part of the problem.
Syrian army says it's closing in on Islamic State in Palmyra
Thu Jul 9, 2015 3:59pm EDT
A newsflash on state television quoted a Syrian army source as saying its forces were in the vicinity of the city.
Footage showed tank and artillery shelling of distant targets in the largely desert terrain.
"The units of the army had delivered concentrated hits to the terrorists' hideouts and killed many of them," an army statement said.
In the last few days the army has intensified its aerial bombardment of the central Syrian city, also known as Tadmur, in the heaviest such raids since it was seized by the Sunni Islamist group last May.
The army said in the last 24 hours it had taken Nuzl Hayal and the Tel al Marmala on the outskirts of the city and hilltops about 10 km (six miles) from the center.
The city of 50,000 people is the site of some of the world's most extensive and best-preserved ancient Roman ruins.
Islamic State is fighting the Kurdish YPG militia along the northern border with Turkey and with the Syrian military around Hasaka city to the east.
The United States said this week it had intensified an aerial campaign against Islamic State in Syria with a wave of strikes in and around Raqqa city, the de facto capital of the militants' self-declared caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by Andrew Roche)
U.S. air strike kills Islamic State leader in Afghanistan
By Mirwais Harooni
Sat Jul 11, 2015 11:45am EDT
The top Islamic State commander in Afghanistan has been killed by a U.S. air strike in the country's east, officials said on Saturday, the fourth ex-Taliban who declared loyalty to the Middle East-based militants to be assassinated within a week.
Hafez Saeed was the leader of Islamic State in the "so-called Khorasan state", Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said, referring to an old term the militants use to describe Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He was killed along with 30 other militants as they gathered in Achin district of Nangarhar province late on Friday, the intelligence agency said. It gave no further details of the air strike.
Saeed, a Pakistani, was among a small but increasing number of senior Taliban militants who have switched allegiance to Islamic State, the radical Islamist movement that has seized territory in Iraq and Syria and inspired attacks worldwide.
The new IS loyalists have been targets for U.S drone strikes in Afghanistan, which have killed three other Islamic State commanders in the same area in the past week, including top commanders Shahidullah Shahid and Gul Zaman.
The U.S. military has expressed concern about the budding Islamic State presence in Afghanistan - still struggling to quell the Taliban's insurgency - and is using its remaining military force in the country to prevent IS from turning into the powerful force that emerged after the American withdrawal from Iraq.
A spokesman for U.S. military in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, confirmed on Saturday that "U.S. Forces conducted a precision strike in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, on July 10 against individuals threatening the force".
After pushing out the Taliban insurgents, Islamic State fighters have in the past two months gained ground in several districts of Nangarhar province, which shares a long and porous border with lawless areas inside Pakistan.
Achin fell to the IS militants last month after heavy clashes with the Afghan Taliban, which has warned Islamic State to stay out of its territory.
Both rival movements espouse a radical vision of strict Islamic sharia law, but each rejects the other's leadership.
Saeed was a senior commander in the Pakistani branch of the Taliban. He left and declared loyalty to Islamic State in October 2014 after differences with the Taliban leadership.
Together with other ex-Taliban he declared the mountainous Tirah valley żin northwestern Pakistan as his headquarters, but soon fled across the border to Nangarhar in Afghanistan when the Pakistani military launched an offensive on his base.
(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Pakistan. Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Ralph Boulton/Hugh Lawson)
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