Iraq’s prime minister said Iraqi warplanes have bombed Islamic State targets inside Syria, in retaliation for recent attacks by the group in Baghdad which left dozens of dead civilians.
It is the first time Iraqi jets have conducted such raids across the border. A Syrian source said the strikes had been coordinated with Damascus.
“We are determined to chase terrorism that tries to kill our sons and citizens, wherever it is found, so we gave orders to the air force command to strike Islamic State positions in (the Iraqi town of) Hosaiba and Albu Kamal inside Syrian territory as they were responsible for recent bombings in Baghdad,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on Friday.
“The heroes of the sky executed the operation and responded to the terrorists with amazing success.”
A military statement said the strikes had taken place on Friday morning using F16 fighter jets and had destroyed Islamic State headquarters in Albu Kamal.
“The strikes targeted Islamic State’s headquarters used for making car bombs in Albu Kamal… after Iraqi intelligence received tips from their sources inside Syria,” a senior security official said.
A source close to Syria’s foreign ministry said the operation had been carried out in “complete coordination” with the Damascus government.
The United States said it had also helped the Iraqis by providing intelligence.
“Yes we were aware, yes we supported it as well with information,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters. “It is a good strike, it is a valid strike, it was a strike against ISIS targets,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
Dozens of civilians killed
In the deadliest attack in 2017, a car filled with explosives blew up on Thursday in southern Baghdad, killing at least 51 people and wounding 55 adding more victims to the growing death list this month.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing in an online statement, as a revenge while its forces are being surrounded in Mosul city.
Security sources said the vehicle which blew up on February 16. was parked in a crowded street full of garages and used car dealers, in Hayy al-Shurta, a Shi’ite district in the southwest of the city.
The site of the bombing was an open space used as a second-hand car market where hundreds of private sellers park their vehicles and wait all day to discuss prices with prospective buyers.
The death toll could climb further as many of the wounded are in critical condition, a doctor said.
The bombing is the second to hit car markets this week, suggesting the group has found it easier to leave vehicles laden with explosives in places where hundreds of other vehicles are parked.
An interior ministry official gave a death toll of 52 and said that more than 50 other people were also wounded. Hospital officials confirmed the figures.
Security officials could be seen inspecting the site before the sun set, while some distressed civilians searched for relatives and others took pictures with their mobile phones of the large crater caused by the blast.
A wave of violence hits Baghdad
Another four attacks in and around Baghdad on Thursday killed eight people and wounded around 30, police and medical officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
On Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives in northern Baghdad on Wednesday killing at least nine people.
The powerful blast in the Habibiya area, near Sadr City which is a Shia-majority neighborhood in the Iraqi capital, killing at least nine people while thirty others were wounded.
The explosion targeted a crowded street full of garages and used car dealers.
The attack came a day after a car bomb explosion in southern Baghdad killed at least four people.
The Iraqi capital was rocked by a wave of deadly suicide bombings during the first days of 2017 but relatively few explosions had been reported since.
Suicide bombings on January 8 hit two marketplaces in eastern Baghdad killed at least 20 people. ISIS claimed the first attack in an online statement saying the bomber had targeted “a gathering of Shia” in Jamila.
On January 2, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 39 people in a busy market in Sadr City.