Syrian bombs hit militant-held territory
BEIRUT — Raids by Syrian warplanes killed at least 25 people, most of them civilians crowding into a bakery, in the northeastern province of Raqqa on Saturday as government forces continued air attacks on territory controlled by the Islamic State, the extremist Sunni militant group.
The Syrian government has increased airstrikes on the group in recent months after it took over government military outposts in Raqqa in a series of newly assertive attacks.
Government critics, and increasingly some supporters, complain that President Bashar Assad’s forces allowed the foreign-led Islamic State to gain strength and establish its proto-state over the past year, focusing the army’s attacks more on Syrian-led militant groups whose main aim is to oust the president.
The Islamic State has a broader goal, to remake the Middle East and establish an Islamic caliphate.
Islamic State gunmen in Raqqa on Saturday appeared to change their positions and leave their offices on the second straight day of heavy airstrikes, though the government assault there still does not appear to equal the intensity of air campaigns against Syrian-led insurgents in the northern city of Aleppo or the suburbs of Damascus, the capital.
The strikes come as the United States weighs whether to augment its recent strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, where it has overrun much of the north and east, with attacks on the group in Syria.
On Friday and Saturday, the U.S. military continued striking Islamic State targets inside Iraq, according to a Central Command statement issued in Washington.
The airstrikes destroyed four Humvees, presumably U.S.-made vehicles captured by militants from Iraqi security forces; one armored personnel carrier; and two trucks, one mounted with a heavy machine gun, the statement said.
In all, the U.S. military has now carried out 133 airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq.
Islamic State militants have beheaded two American journalists in recent weeks.
On Saturday, pictures on social media sites appeared to show the beheading of a captive Lebanese soldier, the second to be killed in captivity since the group raided Arsal, a Lebanese border town, last month, news agencies reported.
A caption posted with the images on a Twitter account used to publish Islamic State statements identified the soldier as Abbas Medlej, a Shiite, Reuters said.
A separate statement, dated Friday, said Medlej was “slaughtered” after a failed escape attempt.