U.S.-Led Coalition Unleashes Wave of Airstrikes on Raqqa

BEIRUT (AP) -

U.S.-led coalition aircraft unleashed a wave of airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria in what the coalition said Sunday was one of its most sustained aerial operations carried out in Syria to date.

IS said at least 10 people were killed and many others wounded in the attacks which activists said triggered successive explosions that shook the city and created panic among residents. The U.S.-led coalition often targets IS-held towns and cities in Syria, but the overnight strikes on Raqqa were rare in their intensity.

In a statement, the coalition said it carried out 18 airstrikes throughout Raqqa province, destroying a number of IS vehicles and 16 bridges. An earlier statement said the attacks also destroyed vital IS-controlled structures and transit routes in Syria.

“The significant airstrikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq,” said coalition spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic caliphate declared a year ago by the Islamic State group in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria. The sustained airstrikes add pressure on the terrorists in Raqqa, still reeling from last month’s loss of the border town of Tal Abyad to Kurdish fighters. The town on the Turkish border was a major avenue for commerce and smuggling for the group.