Middle East

Islamic State crisis: Obama targets 'network of death'

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Media captionBarack Obama: IS "must be degraded and then ultimately destroyed"

US President Barack Obama has urged the world to help dismantle the Islamic State's (IS) "network of death".

He was speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York as US warplanes stepped up air strikes against IS militants in Iraq and Syria.

The UN Security Council later adopted a binding resolution compelling states to prevent their nationals joining jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The US-drafted resolution aims to intercept "foreign terrorist fighters".

Chairing the council session, Mr Obama said "the words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds, concrete action within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead but for years to come".

Nations must unite to tackle "terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence", he said.

In his earlier address to the UNGA he condemned IS, saying "there can be no reasoning - no negotiation - with this brand of evil".

More than 40 countries had offered to join the anti-IS coalition, he said.

IS aims to set up a hardline caliphate. The well-armed Sunni Muslim militants have seized a huge swathe of Syria and Iraq, forcing whole communities to flee in terror. They have beheaded Western hostages and have persecuted Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims, whom they treat as heretics.

Multiple air strikes

US warplanes hit IS vehicles and arms dumps in new air strikes, the US military's Central Command said.

Eight IS vehicles were damaged near Abu Kamal on the Syria-Iraq border, and two others in Deir al-Zour in the east of Syria, the statement said.

In Iraq there were strikes on IS targets west of Baghdad and southeast of Irbil, near Kurdish territory.

Earlier there were air strikes on IS near the border with Turkey.

An Algerian jihadist group linked to IS - Jund al-Khilafa - has released a video which it says shows militants beheading a French tourist. Herve Gourdel was kidnapped on Sunday in Algeria's troubled Kabylie area.

Plea to Muslims

"The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force," Mr Obama said in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

The US "will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death," he told the UN.

"In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send US troops to occupy foreign lands. Instead, we will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back Isil [IS].

"We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort," he said.

He urged Muslims to reject the ideology of IS and al-Qaeda.

Analysis - Nick Bryant, BBC News, New York

When President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly 12 months ago, he spoke of Iraq mainly in the context of America's withdrawal - a country in his rear-view mirror.

Yet the fight in Iraq and Syria against Islamic State, a militant group he once likened, derisively, to a junior basketball team, could dominate his remaining years in office.

America would not base its entire foreign policy on reacting to terrorism, he stressed, but it is certain to take up much of the remaining bandwidth.

The phrase that will linger is "the network of death," but Obama was at pains to point out this is no clash of civilisations. Nor is America acting alone. Over 50 nations will contribute to the fight against Islamic State.

That fight, he said, needed to be ideological as well as military. He called for a new compact among civilised peoples to "eradicate war at its most fundamental source - the corruption of young minds by violent ideology."

Image copyright YouTube
Image caption A new IS video purportedly shows new recruits

Turkey border crisis

Syrian activists reported air strikes around the Kurdish town of Kobane near Turkey, which has been besieged by IS fighters for several days.

Witnesses saw two military aircraft approaching from Turkey but Turkish officials denied its airspace or bases had been used in the attack.

The IS advance has created a refugee crisis in Turkey. Aid agencies said some 130,000 Kurdish refugees, most of them from Kobane, crossed into Turkey at the weekend.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The US and five Arab allies carried out the first strikes against IS militants in Syria on Monday
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The US military says it will continue to conduct air strikes against IS targets in both Iraq and Syria

The US-led coalition expanded its raids against IS into Syria on Monday. The US said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar had all "participated in or supported" the strikes.

But the aerial bombardment near Kobane, which happened at about 01:00 local time (22:00 GMT), has not been confirmed by the US or any coalition member.

Turkish military sources said neither its air force nor the US airbase at Incirlik in southern Turkey had been used.

The US has launched nearly 200 air strikes against IS in Iraq since August.

The US air strikes on Tuesday also targeted Khorasan, a shadowy group of al-Qaeda fighters in Syria's Aleppo province. The US military says it is investigating whether the attack killed Khorasan's leader Mohsin al-Fadhli.

"We just don't have a confirmation," a Pentagon spokesman said. "We don't have personnel on the ground to verify, so we're continuing to assess."

Turkey had initially refused to take part in military action against IS, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signalled a possible change in policy on Tuesday.

"We will give the necessary support to the operation. The support could be military or logistics," he told reporters in New York.

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Media caption''I'm grateful... to America and her partners,'' one refugee told the BBC

The Dutch government says it will deploy six F-16 fighter jets to join the US-led air campaign against IS. The Netherlands will also send about 130 military trainers to Iraq.

Meanwhile, the BBC understands that the UK Parliament will be recalled on Friday to discuss Britain's possible role in air strikes on IS targets.

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Media captionRami Ruhayem: "What we saw today... was people crossing back into Syria"

Anti-IS mood in Raqqa

In the IS stronghold of Raqqa local people are looking forward to more air strikes on IS targets, according to Abdulkader Hariri, a man who got in touch with the BBC.

He says he is in the city, despite feeling "danger every day" because IS militants are against use of social media.

"Everybody is anticipating the second wave of attacks - especially at night. Surprisingly, many people are excited about hitting Isis [IS] more than anything - but those who live near Isis headquarters are afraid.

"There's only one hospital still operating now - the national hospital. Food supplies are available," he wrote.

Who are Islamic State (IS)?

  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
  • The US has been launching air strikes on IS targets in north-eastern Iraq since mid-August

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