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US urges online fight against IS as strikes hit Syria

The US-led coalition carried out fresh air strikes Monday against jihadists in Syria and Iraq as Washington called for the battle against the Islamic State group to be taken to the Internet.

world Updated: Oct 27, 2014 22:02 IST
Islamic state,IS,Jihadists

The US-led coalition carried out fresh air strikes Monday against jihadists in Syria and Iraq as Washington called for the battle against the Islamic State group to be taken to the Internet.

Fighting continued to rage for the strategic Syrian border town of Kobane, and in Iraq a suicide bomber was reported to have killed at least 14 pro-government fighters south of Baghdad.

An AFP reporter just across the border from Kobane in Turkey reported that fierce clashes were raging in the town, where Kurdish fighters have been holding off an IS offensive for weeks.

The US military said its fighter jets and bombers carried out four more air strikes near Kobane on Sunday and Monday, destroying five IS vehicles and an IS-held building.

But there was no sign yet of promised reinforcements for the town's defenders, despite plans announced last week for Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces armed with heavy weapons to join the battle.

A senior Iraqi Kurdish official said the deployment was being held up by Turkey, which has agreed to allow the peshmerga to pass through its territory.

"We are ready to send them," Mustafuz Qader, who heads the ministry responsible for the peshmerga, told journalists.

"We are awaiting the stance of the state of Turkey and because of this have not sent any forces," he said, without elaborating.

Kobane has become a crucial symbol in the battle against IS, an extremist Sunni group that has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, declared an Islamic "caliphate" and committed widespread atrocities.

Washington has forged an alliance of Western and Arab nations to combat the group and on Monday met with coalition partners in Kuwait City to boost efforts to counter the jihadists' online propaganda.

IS 'perverts the innocent'
Retired US general John Allen, who is coordinating the US-led campaign against IS, told participants that the group was promoting its "horrendous brand of warfare" online, where it "recruits and perverts the innocent".

"It is only when we contest ISIL's presence online, deny the legitimacy of the message it sends to vulnerable young people... it is only then that ISIL will truly be defeated," Allen said, using an alternative name for the group.

After the talks the coalition partners promised to take steps to boost efforts to prevent the recruitment of foreign fighters for IS, including online.

IS operates a sophisticated presence online, posting frequent propaganda videos and publishing its own expertly designed magazine.

Concern is growing over the group's online influence in attracting foreign fighters and promoting attacks by disaffected Muslims on Western targets.

The US military said the coalition had also carried out seven new strikes against IS in Iraq on Sunday and Monday, including near the key Mosul dam and southeast of the militant bastion of Fallujah.

Iraq has struggled to regain territory taken by IS in a lightning offensive in June, though it announced at the weekend that its forces had retaken the strategic town of Jurf al-Sakhr south of Baghdad.

Sources said Monday that a suicide bomber had subsequently detonated an explosives-rigged Humvee armoured vehicle near security forces and allied militiamen in the area, killing at least 14.

Assault on Syrian city
Syrian rebel fighters were meanwhile reported to have launched a major assault on the government-held city of Idlib in a bid to consolidate their control over the country's northwest.

Rebels seized control of most of Idlib province early in Syria's three-and-a-half-year-old civil war but troops have held out in the provincial capital, resupplied by air.

Fighters of Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and Islamist rebel units attacked the city from all sides, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Since dawn, fierce fighting has raged at army checkpoints all around Idlib city," said the Britain-based monitoring group, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria.

Rebels made a previous attempt to take the city earlier this year but Monday's assault was "the biggest since the beginning of the revolt" in 2011, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The rise of IS has destabilised large parts of the region, including in Syria's neighbour Lebanon where clashes at the weekend saw thousands flee their homes in the country's second city Tripoli.

Lebanese soldiers deployed in Tripoli's impoverished Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh on Monday without incident, facing no resistance after clashes that killed 11 soldiers and five civilians between Friday and Sunday.

First Published: Oct 27, 2014 21:53 IST