U.S. strikes Islamic State in Syria, Iraq

Associated Press

Beirut – — U.S. fighter jets and bombers expanded their aerial campaign against Islamic State targets Wednesday, striking the militants in both Syria and Iraq even as the extremists pressed their offensive in Kurdish areas within sight of the Turkish border, where fleeing refugees told of civilians beheaded and towns torched.

In Syria, hard-line rebels aligned with a faction fighting to oust President Bashar Assad, but considered too radical by the U.S., packed up their heavy weapons and evacuated their bases over fears the Obama administration would target all fighters deemed a potential threat to the United States.

Wednesday’s strikes marked the second day of a broadened U.S. military operation against the Islamic State group, after a barrage of more than 200 strikes on some two dozen targets in Syria a day earlier. That campaign builds upon the air raids the U.S. has already been conducting for more than a month against the extremists in Iraq.

The ultimate aim of the Obama administration and its Arab partners is to destroy the Islamic State group, which through brute force has carved out a proto-state in the heart of the Middle East, effectively erasing the border between Iraq and Syria.

On Wednesday, Algerian extremists aligned with the Islamic State group declared in a video that they had beheaded a fourth hostage — a Frenchman seized in Algeria on Sunday — in retaliation for France joining the aerial assault against the militants in Iraq.

French President Francois Hollande said France would not be deterred by the act of “barbarity.”

Meanwhile, U.S. allies lined up in support of the aerial campaign.