US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Islamic State militants

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Syrian Democratic Forces launched coalition-backed offensive against IS-held pocket in Euphrates Valley last month

US-backed forces engaging IS in Syria's eastern province of Deir Ezzor (AFP/file photo)
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Sunday 21 October 2018 10:00 UTC
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An offensive by US-backed forces against the Islamic State (IS) group's last redoubt in eastern Syria killed 35 militants on Saturday, a Britain-based war monitor said.

Twenty-eight IS members were killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition around the town of Hajin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Another seven militants were killed in ground fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who launched a coalition-backed offensive against the IS-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley last month.

Fighting has killed 414 militants and 227 SDF fighters in total since the assault began on 10 September, the Observatory said.

Coalition air strikes on IS targets in another part of the pocket on Thursday and Friday killed at least 41 civilians, 10 of them children, the monitor said.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said IS had seized almost 700 hostages in part of Syria controlled by US-backed forces, executing some of them and promising to kill more.

Putin said the hostages included several US and European nationals, adding that IS was expanding its control in territory on the left bank of the River Euphrates controlled by US and US-backed forces.

In Washington, the US military cast doubt on Putin's claims, the Reuters news agency reported.

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US-led coalition air strikes kill at least 32 civilians in east Syria: Monitor

"While we have confirmed that there was an attack on an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp near [Deir Ezzor] last week, we have no information supporting the large number of hostages alleged by President Putin and we are skeptical of its accuracy," Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

"We are also unaware of any US nationals located in that camp," Robertson added.

IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a "caliphate" across the land it controlled.

But the group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.

In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.

Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.