US special forces launch 'successful' raid against IS in Syria
US special operations ground troops carried out a "successful" raid in Syria against leaders of the Islamic State (IS) group in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, a Pentagon spokesman said on Monday.
The operation was "focused on ISIL leadership" and was conducted by a unit tasked with tracking down top operatives, Navy Captain Jeff Davis said, using a different acronym for IS.
Davis said, however, that reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent monitor, in claiming that 25 militants had died in the raid were "grossly exaggerated".
He said the raids were carried out by the "Expeditionary Targeting Force" (ETF), an elite Special Forces unit, in addition to soldiers belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed coalition of Arab and Kurdish forces.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least four helicopters, including Apache attack helicopters, were used in the operation.
This kind of raid is aimed at eliminating militant leaders as well as gathering intelligence to conduct further operations, Davis said.
A commander for the Syrian Democratic Forces said the attack targeted vehicles driven by senior IS militants coming from Raqqa, IS's headquarters, and that the operation killed several militants from the group. Davis denied that prisoners were taken, saying there was "no detention from this operation".
A Syrian army official said military radars had detected the operation but could not identify the nationality of the aircraft.
The United States has been leading a campaign against IS in Syria since September 2014.
Deir Ezzor is Syria's second biggest province after Homs. Since early 2015, militants have besieged the provincial capital, also called Deir Ezzor, home to some 200,000 people.
According to the Observatory, the raids killed 14 IS members travelling on a bus and 11 in a fire fight when a water facility was targeted.
IS destroys gas plant
Meanwhile, IS has blown up a natural gas plant that supplied one-third of Syria's electricity, one month after getting its hands on the facility, a monitor said on Monday.
"In the past 48 hours, IS blew up the Hayyan gas plant in eastern Homs province, putting it totally out of order," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,.
A source at the Syrian oil ministry also confirmed the explosion to AFP.
The plant had already ceased to operate one month ago, after the advance of the militants in the central region of Palmyra.
IS has blown up a natural gas plant that supplied one-third of Syria's electricity, one month after getting its hands on the facility
IS on Sunday released a video entitled "Hayyan Gas Company explosion in the east of Homs province" in which a man is seen planting explosives before a wide-angle shot of a huge explosion engulfing the plant.
Jihad Yazigi of the economic news weekly The Syria Report, said the gas from the plant was used to produce one third of the country's electricity.
According to the weekly, the plant used to produce 3.7 million cubic metres of natural gas per day.
"Therefore millions of Syrians are affected... it was one of the few stations that still produced close to its capacity," Yazigi told AFP.