Obama pledges to form international coalition to fight Islamic militants
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
“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
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
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.