May 10, 2017 / 12:56 PM / 7 months ago

Monitor says air strikes kill 11 people north of Syria's Raqqa

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Air strikes killed at least 11 people, including four children, in a village north of the Syrian city of Raqqa overnight, a war monitoring group said on Wednesday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes, thought to belong to the U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State, hit al-Salihiya village before midnight and also injured several civilians.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition could not immediately be reached for comment. The United States military has said it makes “extraordinary efforts” to avoid civilian deaths in its bombing runs in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

The UK-based Observatory said jets, also believed to belong to the coalition, killed 10 people driving through desert areas near the southwest edge of Raqqa province earlier this week.

The U.S.-led coalition has been supporting Syrian militias with air strikes and special forces in a campaign to capture Raqqa city, Islamic State’s base of operations in Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, have seized territory from the jihadist group and advanced on Raqqa from the north, east and west.

Islamic State has lost ground in different parts of northern Syria to three separate campaigns - by the SDF, the Russian-backed Syrian army, and Turkey with allied Syrian rebels.

Separately, the Syrian air force pounded the remaining Islamic State-held villages in Aleppo province on Wednesday, killing 13 people near al-Maskaneh town, the Observatory said.

Government troops were fighting the militants around al-Jarrah military airport, it added.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian army.

The Observatory said Damascus ramped up its strikes this week against the jihadist group in the eastern Aleppo countryside, where the army had made gains earlier this year.

The war monitor said the strikes had killed dozens of people, including at least 20 children, in the area over the past three days.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Ken Ferris

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