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Obama pledges to form international coalition to fight Islamic militants
24-09-2014

NEW YORK: US President Barack Obama has pledged to keep building an international coalition to defeat Islamic State militants, hours after America and five Arab nations launched airstrikes against the group in Syria.

“America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security,” he said at the White House. “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.”

He said defeating IS would take time and effort but added, “We are going to do what is necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group.” After his brief statement, the President left for the UN General Assembly in New York, where he will seek to broaden consensus for the American-led effort.

The air campaign used land and sea based US aircraft as well as 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from two Navy ships in the Red Sea and the northern Persian Gulf. At least 70 IS fighters are said to have been killed in dozens of attacks, which also targeted al Qaeda veterans.

The US has targeted IS facilities in Iraq but this is the first time the campaign has expanded into Syria, a country torn by three years of civil war. The US military said it had destroyed or damaged multiple IS targets around the militants’ self-declared capital of Raqqa as well as Deir al Zor, Hasakah and the border town of Albu Kamal.

It said targets included IS fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command-and-control facilities, storage facilities, a finance centre, supply trucks and armed vehicles.

The five Arab nations - Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates - either participated in the airstrikes or provided unspecified support, US officials said.

Separately, the US carried out eight Tomahawk strikes against the al Qaeda-linked Khorasan group, which is accused of training fighters with Western passports to target aviation.

The Pentagon said the shadowy network was in "the final stages" of plans to attack Western targets and potentially the US.

Obama told reporters, “Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

The US President had been wary of dragging the US military into the conflict between the regime of President Bashar al Assad and rebel groups. However, Damascus says the US had informed Syria's envoy to the UN about the strikes.

International efforts to combat the group have taken on an added urgency after the beheading of two US journalists and a British aid worker, and the threat to kill another UK hostage.

The strikes did not involve the UK but Prime Minister David Cameron supported them and will discuss at the UN what contribution Britain can make, according to Downing Street.

Photographs taken in Raqqa showed wreckage of what IS fighters said was a drone that had been shot down. Pieces of the wreckage were shown loaded into the back of a van.