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Iraq hits Islamic State inside Syria with 'deadly' air strikes

Iraq says cross-border attack was launched due to 'danger posed to Iraqi territory' by remnants of IS
Iraqi forces wave their national flags after retaking the town of Zankura from IS (AFP)

Iraq said on Thursday its air force carried out air strikes in Syria against the Islamic State, in the latest attacks against the group to prevent it infiltrating across the border.

The strikes were in coordination with the Syrian government, the Iraqi government said, adding the "deadly raid" was conducted "because of the danger they pose to Iraqi territory".

"Carrying out air strikes on Daesh gangs in Syrian territories is because of the dangers posed by said gangs to Iraqi territories and is proof of the improved capabilities of our armed forces," the Iraqi military said in a statement.

The Iraqi air force used F-16 jets to cross into Syria and carry out the strikes, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said.

It is latest of several cross-border attacks by Iraqi forces against Islamic State, the first taking place in February last year as Iraq was still battling the group in Mosul.

The latest attacks show that IS is still considered a threat to Iraqi security, months after the Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi declared total victory and Raqqa, the Syrian 'capital' of IS, fell to Kurdish and American forces.

On Tuesday, Middle East Eye reported that Iraqi troops were following shoot-to-kill orders to defend the Syrian border areas that are still controlled by IS. 

"We shoot anyone we see approaching us, whether in a car or on foot," Abu Ali Khadem, the deputy commander of Brigade 20 of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi forces, told MEE.

Abu Haider al-Jabouri, the deputy commander of Iraq's Brigade 28, was critical of US-led coalition activities in Syria, which his forces have been monitoring for months, and claimed ulterior motives on the part of the Americans.

"Coalition warplanes conduct many sorties over this area, especially on the Syrian side of the border and sometimes carry out air strikes, but these are not proper operations, they are like children's operations," he said, shaking his head.

"We have been observing them for months and their operations clearly show us that they do not want to destroy IS."

Earlier this month, Abadi had said Iraq would "take all necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq".

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