WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State said it killed nearly 150 militants in strikes on Saturday in the Syrian middle Euphrates River Valley.
The latest strikes come as the United States urged Turkey to show restraint in its campaign against Kurdish forces in northern Syria and to focus on fighting Islamic State militants.
The United States has signaled an open-ended military presence in Syria as part of a broader strategy to prevent Islamic State’s resurgence, pave the way diplomatically for the eventual departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and curtail Iran’s influence.
“The precision strikes were a culmination of extensive intelligence preparation to confirm an ISIS headquarters and command and control center in an exclusively ISIS-occupied location in the contested middle Euphrates River Valley,” a statement issued on Tuesday said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
The strikes took place near As Shafah, Syria and killed between 145 and 150 militants. The statement added that U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes Kurdish YPG fighters, helped in target observation.
Turkey seeks to avoid any clash with U.S., Russian or Syrian forces but will take any steps needed for its security, a Turkish minister said on Tuesday, the fourth day of its air and ground offensive against Kurdish forces.
The United States and Russia both have military forces in Syria and have urged Turkey to show restraint in its campaign, named Operation Olive Branch, to crush the U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG in the Afrin region on Turkey’s southern border.
“Our SDF partners are still making daily progress and sacrifices, and together we are still finding, targeting and killing ISIS terrorists intent on keeping their extremist hold on the region,” Major General James Jarrard, commander of special operations for the coalition, said in the statement.
The United States has led an international coalition conducting air strikes against Islamic State since 2014. U.S. troops have served as advisers on the ground with Iraqi government forces and with Kurdish and Arab groups in Syria.
The coalition has said in the past that fewer than 1,000 Islamic State fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, but that the militant group still remains a threat. The figure excludes areas in western Syria under the control of Assad’s government and his allies.
Reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and James Dalgleish
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