Iraqi jets hit targets across the border in Syria for first time | News | DW | 24.02.2017
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Iraqi jets hit targets across the border in Syria for first time

The Iraqi air force has bombed so called 'Islamic State' (IS) positions as retribution for attacks in Baghdad. The raids mark the first Iraqi air strikes in Syria with jets targeting jihadist headquarters.

The Iraqi military deployed F-16 fighter jets to hit targets near the country's western border with Syria on Friday, according to an air force commander cited by the AP news agency.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the airstrikes in a statement, saying the air force hit the towns of Boukamal and Husseibah across the border.

"We are determined to chase terrorism that tries to kill our sons and citizens wherever it is found," al-Abadi said in a statement, saying that IS forces in the region were "responsible" for last week's bombings in Baghdad that killed over 50 people.

"The heroes of the sky executed the operation and responded to the terrorists with amazing success," the prime minister added.

Intel from Syria

The long and complicated war in Syria has seen warplanes from the US, Russia, Turkey, Israel and several other countries hitting targets on the ground. The Friday strikes, however, marked the first time the Iraqi air force has acknowledged bombing the neighboring state.

Citing a source close to the Syrian foreign ministry, the Reuters news agency reported that the attack was conducted in "complete coordination" with the Damascus regime.

A different source told the agency that the bombing targeted the IS "headquarters used for making car bombs […] after Iraqi intelligence received tips from their sources inside Syria."

Iraqi forces have managed to push the jihadists out of most of their urban strongholds in the western province of Anbar, but the group is still active in the region, relying on hideouts in the desert.

The strikes come as Iraqi forces are pressing their attack on "IS" forces still holding the western part of the city of Mosul, the last major IS bastion in Iraq.

On Friday, Baghdad said that its forces "fully liberated" a western district and Mosul airport. The operation which began three months ago to reclaim the whole of the city from IS control, is ongoing.

dj/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)