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32 IS fighters dead in US-led Syria raids, Assad slams UK vote
By Layal Abou Rahal
Beirut (AFP) Dec 6, 2015

Turkey detains eight IS members on Syria border: army
Ankara (AFP) Dec 5, 2015 - Turkey has detained eight members of the Islamic State group including three children while trying to cross from neighbouring Syria illegally, the military said on Saturday.

"Eight members of the Daesh terrorist organisation were caught and detained" on Friday in the border town of Elbeyli, Kilis province, the army said in a statement on its website, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The military gave no further details on the three children detained.

Weapons including a Kalashnikov rifle, 11 cartridges and hand grenades were confiscated from the group, along with a notebook, the statement said.

Long criticised for not doing enough to stem the flow of jihadist fighters across its volatile border with Syria, Turkey has stepped up fight after a number of deadly attacks on Turkish soil blamed on IS.

According to government figures, between January and November around 1,200 suspects were detained over ties to the jihadist group.

Turkish courts have convicted and imprisoned more than 350 people on the grounds of IS membership.

The government has dismissed as "groundless" claims that Turkey is not combatting the jihadist group.

Ankara launched its first air strikes against IS targets in Syria after a deadly bombing on a border town in July.

The group has been blamed for three attacks in Turkey since June including the country's deadliest ever attack in October, which killed 102 people at a pro-Kurdish rally in Ankara.

At least 32 Islamic State group fighters were killed on Sunday in apparent US-led coalition raids on Syria as President Bashar al-Assad slammed Britain's decision to participate in air strikes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said at least 32 fighters had been killed in some 15 strikes on the IS stronghold of Raqa province in northern Syria.

The monitor's head, Rami Abdel Rahman, said at least 40 jihadists were also wounded in the strikes, which hit IS headquarters and bases to the north, east and southeast of provincial capital Raqa city.

The city is the de facto Syrian capital of the group, which calls the large stretches of territory it controls in Syria and neighbouring Iraq an Islamic "caliphate".

Abdel Rahman said the casualty figures were collected from a single hospital and the final toll from the air strikes could rise.

Raqa is frequently the target of air strikes by the US-led coalition, as well as the Syrian air force, and Russian warplanes that began an air campaign in Syria in late September.

The US-led coalition has been targeting IS in Syria since September last year, expanding a campaign that began with raids in neighbouring Iraq.

Its operations have expanded further in recent days, partly in response to the deadly attacks in Paris claimed by IS.

Britain voted on Wednesday to join the coalition's strikes in Syria, after a heated debate in the country's parliament and with the staunch backing of Prime Minister David Cameron.

And German lawmakers on Friday approved plans to join the military action against the group in Syria.

- Assad slams Britain -

In an interview published Sunday in Britain's The Sunday Times newspaper, Assad slammed London's decision to begin strikes in Syria as "illegal" and said its actions would cause "terrorism" to spread.

"It will be harmful and illegal and it will support terrorism as happened after the coalition started its operation a year or so (ago)," he told the newspaper.

Terror, he said, was like a cancer which needed to be tackled with a "comprehensive" strategy which would involve working with troops on the ground.

"You cannot cut out part of the cancer. You have to extract it. This kind of operation is like cutting out part of the cancer. That will make it spread in the body faster.

"You cannot defeat (IS) through air strikes alone. You cannot defeat them without cooperation with forces on the ground. You cannot defeat them if you do not have buy-in from the general public and the government," he said.

"They are going to fail again."

Britain began its bombing campaign early on Thursday, hitting an oilfield held by IS just hours after the parliamentary vote.

Damascus has repeatedly slammed the US-led coalition as ineffective and illegal, saying it cannot uproot IS without coordinating with the Syrian government.

Russia, a staunch Assad ally, began its strikes with the government's permission and has coordinated its raids with regime forces.

It says its raids focus on IS and other "terrorists", but other rebels and their backers accuse Moscow of targeting moderate and Islamist opposition fighters over jihadists.

On Sunday, the Observatory said 13 civilians, among them two children, had been killed in apparent Russian air strikes on the town of Zamalka, east of Damascus.

According to the monitor, Russian strikes have killed more than 1,500 people, including 419 IS fighters, but also nearly 500 civilians, since they began on September 30.

IS rules the territory under its control with an iron fist, brutally punishing those who challenge its authority or violate its harsh interpretation of Islam.

On Sunday, the Observatory said the group had executed a media activist in the city of Deir Ezzor by tying him to two vehicles which were then driven in opposite directions.

IS accused the activist of "collaborating with the Crusader coalition" after discovering broadcasting equipment during a raid on his home, the Observatory said.

Local activists have become a key source of information about life under IS, with journalists unable to access territory it controls.

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