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ISIL bombs Syrian Kurdish town despite U.S. air strikes

BEIRUT: New U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State fighters failed to stop them from pressing their assault on a strategic Syrian town near the Turkish border on Saturday, hitting it with shell fire for the first time.

The U.S. Central Command said the air strikes destroyed an IS building and two armed vehicles near the border town of Kobani, which the insurgents have been besieging for the past 10 days.

It said an airfield, garrison and training camp near the IS stronghold of Raqqa were also among the targets damaged in seven air strikes conducted by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, using fighter planes and remotely piloted aircraft.

Three air strikes in Iraq destroyed four IS armed vehicles and a “fighting position” southwest of Arbil, Centcom said.

The United States has been carrying out strikes in Iraq since Aug. 8 and in Syria, with the help of Arab allies, since Tuesday, in a campaign it says is aimed at “degrading and destroying” the Islamist militants who have captured swathes of both countries.

A day after the UK parliament voted to allow British warplanes to attack IS in Iraq, two British fighter jets flew a mission over the country, the Ministry of Defence said, adding they had gathered intelligence but did not carry out air strikes.

IS, which swept across northern Iraq in June, has proclaimed an Islamic “caliphate”, beheaded Western hostages and ordered Shi’ites and non-Muslims to convert or die. Its rise has prompted President Barack Obama to order U.S. forces back into Iraq, which they left in 2011, and to go into action over Syria for the first time.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group that supports opposition forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said Saturday’s air strikes set off more than 30 explosions in Raqqa.

Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the British-based Observatory, said 23 Islamic State fighters were killed. He said the heaviest casualties were inflicted in attacks on an airport.

But the monitoring group said IS was still able to shell eastern parts of Kobani, wounding several people. It said that IS fighters had killed 40 Kurdish militia in the past five days in their battle for Kobani, including some who were killed by a suicide bomber who drove into the town’s outskirts in a vehicle disguised to look as though it was carrying humanitarian aid.

The insurgents’ offensive against the Kurdish town, also known as Ayn al-Arab, has prompted around 150,000 refugees to pour across the border into Turkey since last week- Reuters

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