Iraq says it has killed at least 45 members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, in an air strike in eastern Syria, the second such operation in less than a month.
The Iraqi army said in a statement on Saturday that F-16 fighter jets had targeted a meeting of senior ISIL leaders in the Hajin region in Syria’s eastern Deir Az Zor province near the Iraqi border.
Those killed included a messenger for ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the statement added, without giving a specific date for the attack.
Three houses linked by an underground tunnel were also destroyed, the statement said, adding that the air raid was carried out based on “intelligence” and at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Hajin, located about 50km from Iraq’s border, is the largest populated hub still under ISIL control in Syria.
Earlier on Saturday, an Iraqi military commander said Iraqi forces had launched two operations to hunt down fighters in western Iraq’s desert area near the border with Syria.
Iraq’s air force has carried out several strikes on ISIL-held territory in Syria since April, including one targeting “the headquarters of Islamic State terrorist gang leaders” in Hajin on May 24.
In December, al-Abadi announced that the country’s forces had captured all the territory previously held by ISIL, completing a US-backed campaign of about three years against the group.
However, ISIL operatives have continued carrying out attacks and kidnappings targeting security forces and civilians in different parts of the country.
Two policemen were killed and three others injured on Saturday in an attack by ISIL near Mosul in northern Iraq, a local security official told dpa news agency.
The attack targeted a security checkpoint south of Mosul, according to Samir Salem, police captain.
ISIL had seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in mid-2014. In July last year, al-Abadi declared that all of Mosul had been retaken from ISIL after a nine-month onslaught.