Baghdad: Iraq said on Saturday it had killed 45 terrorists from Daesh, including senior members, in an air strike in eastern Syria, the second such operation in less than a month.
Iraqi F-16 fighter jets carried out a “successful strike targeting a meeting of Daesh leaders” on Friday in the Hajin region, in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Al Zor, a military statement said.
Among those killed, it said, were a senior member of the terrorists’ “ministry of war”, his deputy, a local commander and a media official. There was no independent confirmation.
Three houses linked by an underground tunnel were also destroyed, it said, adding that the air strike was carried out based on “intelligence” and at the request of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi.
Hajin, about 50 kilometres from Iraq’s border, is the largest populated hub still under Daesh control in Syria.
Last month the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that monitors the Syrian war said that at least 65 senior Daesh members live in Hajin.
The town has been surrounded since the end of last year by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, the monitor says.
Iraq’s air force has carried out several strikes on Daesh-held territory in Syria since April, including one targeting “the headquarters of Daesh terrorist gang leaders” in Hajin on May 24.
The following day Iraq released a video showing a strike on a huge building surrounded by palm trees and a wall which then collapsed.
Daesh declared a cross-border “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq in 2014, seizing a third of Iraq during a sweeping offensive.
The terrorists have since lost much ground to separate counter-offensives by Syrian and Iraqi forces as well as US-led operations, and the terrorist presence has been confined to a few holdouts in Deir Al Zor.
In December the Iraqi government declared victory over Daesh but the military has continued regular operations targeting mostly desert areas along the porous Syrian border.
Prime Minister Al Abadi, whose political bloc came third in a May parliamentary election, met on Saturday with cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, whose bloc came first, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, Al Abadi’s office said.
It was the first meeting between the pair since Sadr and second-placed Hadi Al Amiri, a Shiite militia commander and Iran ally, announced an alliance between their blocs.
Political leaders in Iraq traditionally hold such meetings after elections as part of the lengthy and often complicated process of forming a coalition government, as no one party ever wins enough seats to form a government on its own.