Airstrikes likely carried out by the US-led coalition struck an oil refinery in Syria held by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) group on Sunday, shaking buildings and sending flames shooting into the air near the Turkish border, a witness and activists said.
Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate meanwhile warned that Muslims would attack countries taking part in the coalition air raids, which have targeted both the ISIS extremist group as well as hardline militants battling to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Explosions lit the sky for two hours at the refinery in the northern Syrian town of Tel Abyad, said Turkish businessman Mehmet Ozer, who lives in the nearby Turkish town of Akcakale. US Command, which is overseeing the air campaign, did not immediately comment on the strikes.
Iraqi pro-government forces backed by warplanes, meanwhile, repelled a jihadist attack on a strategic town only 40 kilometres west of the capital Baghdad, security sources said.
“They attacked from two sides... The fighting lasted five hours,” an official said, adding that soldiers, policemen and Sunni tribesmen were fighting together to defend the town. “Warplanes eventually engaged the insurgents and killed 15 of them,” he said.
Threats to the coalition
The Al Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, threatened reprisals against nations participating in air strikes against ISIS, denouncing them as “a war against Islam.”
Group spokesman Abu Firas al-Suri said in a video posted online the states involved had “committed a horrible act that is going to put them on the list of jihadist targets throughout the world.”
The warning came as the US-led coalition widened its air strikes against ISIS in Syria, as British warplanes flew their first anti-jihadist combat missions over neighbouring Iraq.