Mon, Feb 09, 2015 - Page 1 News List

US-led coalition squeezing IS militants: Kerry


A Royal Jordanian Air Force plane takes off from an air base to strike the Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa on Thursday last week.

Photo: Reuters

An international coalition battling Muslim militants in Iraq and Syria is beginning to win back territory and deprive the extremists of key funds, US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, as he denounced the group’s “new level of depravity.”

Washington has rallied more than 60 countries in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and while Kerry told a global security conference it would be a long battle, he said there were signs the strategy was working.

Since August last year there have been 2,000 air strikes by the coalition, Kerry told the Munich Security Conference, adding that it had helped to retake about 700km2 in territory, or “one-fifth of the area they had in their control.”

His comments came after coalition warplanes pounded a stronghold of the IS group in Syria on Saturday, amid uncertainty over the fate of a US hostage the extremists said was killed in an earlier raid.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it would station a squadron of F-16 warplanes in Jordan to support it in strikes against the IS, who burned alive a captured Jordanian airman.

The US said there was no proof that 26-year-old aid worker Kayla Mueller had been killed after the militant group said she had been buried under rubble following a strike by a Jordanian warplane on their self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa.

A coalition statement said it had carried out 11 air strikes against the group in Syria and 15 in Iraq during a 24-hour period up to Saturday morning, including in Raqqa.

It said one air strike struck multiple weapons storage facilities in the Raqqa area.

Jordanian state media said its warplanes had launched new raids on Saturday, for the third consecutive day.

Jordan — still reeling from the brutal murder of one of its pilots — rejected the militants’ claim that its warplanes killed Mueller, calling it an “old and sick trick” to deter coalition strikes.

The IS group said none of its fighters were wounded in the raid, and it did not publish any pictures of her body.

Jordanian Minister of the Interior Hussein al-Majali said in remarks published on Saturday that the burning alive of Kassasbeh by the militants was a “turning point” in the kingdom’s fight against extremism.

After Kassasbeh’s warplane crashed in Syria in December last year and following his capture by the Islamic State, the UAE withdrew from the US-led coalition’s strike missions over fears for the safety of its pilots, but Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy head of the UAE armed forces, has since ordered the deployment of the F-16s in Jordan, the official Emirati news agency WAM said.

In northern Iraq, where Kurdish forces have pushed back IS, the remains of 23 men from the Yazidi religious minority were found in a mass grave, an official said on Saturday.

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