French jets pound Raqqa as G20 pledges new ISIL fight

Two days after attacks in Paris claimed by ISIL, France targets the group’s Syrian stronghold.

French warplanes have hit the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, as world leaders pledged to renew their fight against the armed group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people.

In its first air strikes against ISIL since the Paris attacks, 12 warplanes, including 10 fighter bombers, dropped 20 bombs on the targets on Sunday night, the French defence ministry said.

“The first target destroyed was used by Daesh [ISIL] as a command post, jihadist recruitment centre and arms and munitions depot. The second held a terrorist training camp,” a ministry statement said.

The planes left from Jordan and the UAE and the strikes were conducted in coordination with US forces, the ministry said.

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Writing on Twitter, the anti-ISIL activist group Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered said air strikes had also hit a stadium, a museum, clinics, a hospital, a chicken farm and a local governmental building.

Water and electricity were cut across the city as a result of the raids, the group said, adding that at least 30 air strikes had been carried out.

The group said no civilian casualties had been immediately reported.

Earlier on Sunday, leaders of the world’s 20 major economies (G20) pledged a renewed fight against ISIL, but offered few details on how the strategy would change.

Although the G20 usually focuses on economic issues, the President of host country Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged world leaders to prioritise the battle against ISIL, saying Friday’s assaults in Paris proved that the time for words was now over.

The attacks left at least 129 people dead and more than 350 others injured.

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ISIL also claimed responsibility for a bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, that killed at least 43 people on Thursday.

“We are confronted with a collective terrorism activity around the world. As you know, terrorism does not recognise any religion, any race, any nation, or any country,” Erdogan said.


US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, affirmed his country’s support for Paris in the wake of the attacks, saying: “We stand in solidarity with them [France] in hunting down the perpetrators of this crime and bringing them to justice.”

He pledged to “redouble” US efforts to eliminate ISIL, but offered no details about what the US or its coalition partners might do to step up its assault against the group.

French President Francois Hollande cancelled his attendance at the summit, and sent Laurent Fabius, the Foreign Minister, to represent him.

The attacks in Paris prompted a worldwide alert and called for a stepped-up offensive against ISIL.
The US already expects France to retaliate by taking on a larger role in the US-led coalition’s bombing campaign against the group.

The summit in Antalya brings Obama and fellow world leaders just 500km from Syria, where a four-and-a-half-year conflict has transformed ISIL into a global security threat and prompted Europe’s largest migration flow in decades.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies