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Wednesday, Sep 24, 2014

World

'World is united' in fighting IS: Obama

AFP | Wednesday, Sep 24, 2014

In the lead-up to the mid-term congressional elections in the US, attacks against Mr Obama have intensified as Republicans try to leverage on his unpopularity to topple Democratic rivals.

DAMASCUS, Syria - US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that air strikes the United States and its Arab allies unleashed against the Islamic State group in Syria send a clear message that the world is united in confronting the jihadists.

Dozens of IS and Al-Qaeda militants were reported killed in the raids, which Washington said had partly targeted extremists plotting an "imminent attack" against the West.

Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined in the operation that saw a torrent of bombs and missiles fired from air and sea.

Tuesday's raids came after US and French air strikes in neighbouring Iraq, opening a new front in the war against the IS organisation which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq and declared an Islamic "caliphate".

The operation also carries crucial symbolic importance in the fight against Sunni IS as all five Arab nations are Sunni-ruled.

Thanking Arab leaders for the action, Obama said: "Because of the almost unprecedented effort of this coalition, I think we now have an opportunity to send a very clear message that the world is united."

The US has built up a broad coalition of more than 50 nations to combat the IS jihadist threat, and Obama will seek to enlist support from others at the UN General Assembly, which opens Wednesday.

Hours after the unprecedented raids on Syria, the US leader declared that "the strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America's fight alone.

"It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people," he added.

Describing the strikes as "very successful," the Pentagon said they hit IS positions, training compounds, command centres and armed vehicles in the IS stronghold of Raqa and near the Iraqi border.

Turkey to 'join coalition'

NATO member Turkey, another Sunni nation and a neighbour of Syria, has so far remained on the sidelines, but US Secretary of State John Kerry said Ankara had pledged to join the coalition.

"Turkey is very much part of this coalition, and Turkey will be very engaged on the frontlines of this effort," Kerry said after meeting Turkish officials in New York.

Speaking on national television, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara's contribution would consist of "all kinds of support including military and political".

Key US ally Britain has so far limited backing to arming Kurdish fighters and providing supportive roles, but British media reported that Prime Minister David Cameron was considering joining air strikes targeting IS.

"This is a fight you cannot opt out of. These people want to kill us," Cameron told an interview with NBC news, saying that the militants had planned attacks in Europe and elsewhere.

Washington had been reluctant to intervene in Syria's civil war, but was jolted into action as IS captured more territory and committed atrocities including the beheadings of three Western hostages.

The United States said it had not requested Syria's permission for the strikes or given advance notice "at a military level".

Even so, President Bashar al-Assad said Damascus supported any international effort "to fight against terrorism".

The United Nations says about 191,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Assad erupted in 2011, escalating into a war that brought jihadists streaming into Syria.

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