Thursday 22 February 2018

Strikes have killed 1,600 Isil jihadis, says report

British teenage girls Shamima Begun, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana (left to right), walk through security at Gatwick airport before they boarded a flight to Turkey
British teenage girls Shamima Begun, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana (left to right), walk through security at Gatwick airport before they boarded a flight to Turkey
Workers document and count dead bodies, which according to the rebel fighters, were members of forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, before burying them in Aleppo (REUTERS/Mahmoud Hebbo)

Tom Whitehead

US-led air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (Isil) in Syria have killed more than 1,600 people, mainly jihadis, since they began five months ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said almost all of those killed were jihadis from Isil and al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, though it also documented the deaths of 62 civilians.

The Britain-based monitor said the strikes that began on September 23 had killed 1,465 members of Isil, most of them non-Syrians.

Another 73 fighters from Al-Nusra Front were killed, along with a man from a rebel group being held prisoner by IS in the group's de facto capital Raqa.

Washington and a small coalition of Arab countries began strikes against Isil in Syria last year, expanding US-led operations with a broader coalition already under way against Isil in Iraq. But it broke with al-Qa'ida and declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, attracting a steady stream of foreign fighters and carrying out abuses including beheadings.

Meanwhile the headteacher of the school attended by three teenage girls believed to have travelled to Syria to join Isil has said police found no evidence the missing students were radicalised there.

Mark Keary, principal of Bethnal Green Academy, east London, said that they were "shocked and saddened" by the disappearance of Shamima Begum (15), Kadiza Sultana (16), and Amira Abase (15).

Police spoke to the girls after another student disappeared in December and indicated at the time that there was no evidence that they were at risk of being radicalised or absconding, Mr Keary said. He also said that access to social media at the school is "strictly regulated".

A tweet sent from a Twitter account under Shamima's name was sent to Aqsa Mahmood, who left Glasgow for Syria to be a "jihadi bride" in 2013.

Last night British Prime Minister David Cameron said internet firms must do more to deal with online extremism after the three girls were radicalised "in their bedrooms".

News of their actions led to calls from politicians for social media companies to do more after it was revealed they had been in contact via Twitter with other women involved with Isil.

He said: "All of us have been horrified by the way that British teenagers appear to have been radicalised and duped by this poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism while at home on the internet in their bedrooms," Cameron told parliament.

"Given reports that one of the girls was following as many as 70 extremists online, this case underlines the importance of the work we are doing with social media companies." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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