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US-led coalition airstrikes decline sharply in Syria and Iraq

Coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq fell sharply last month [AFP]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2017

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The US Air Force said coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq fell sharply last month, a reflection of the collapse of the Islamic State group in the region.

Coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq fell sharply last month, a reflection of the collapse of the Islamic State group, a US Air Force general said on Tuesday.

There were 60 to 70 percent fewer airstrikes in October than the average for the preceding eight to nine months, Brigadier General Andrew Croft, who coordinates the coalition air campaign, said.

"That's indicative of the fact that IS is collapsing not only as a physical caliphate but also in ownership of land," he told reporters in a teleconference, using an alternative acronym for IS.

"They only control about four or five percent of the original area they covered, so the number of targets has dropped dramatically, particularly in the last month."

He said 850 bombs were dropped during October compared to 1,800 to 2,400 a month since the start of the year.

The decline came in the same month that Raqqa, IS' Syrian stronghold, fell to US-backed Kurdish forces.

Before that, Iraqi forces backed by coalition airpower retook the northern city of Mosul from IS in early July, and the largest town under Islamic State group control in Iraq, al-Qaim, earlier this week.

The fall of town, home to around 150,000 people, mostly from Sunni tribes, leaves IS fighters in Iraq holding just the smaller neighbouring town of Rawa and surrounding pockets of barren desert along the Euphrates river.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the newly-liberated town and the nearby Husaybah border crossing in Western Iraq on Sunday, al-Iraqiya TV said, raising the Iraqi flag.

Both areas sit along what was once an important supply route used by IS when the group controlled large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

The capture of al-Qaim - with the support of a US-led international coalition - marked the end of the conventional war against IS, coalition officials said.

On Friday, the Syrian regime also announced its forces had seized IS' last stronghold in Syria, Deir az-Zour.

The militants are expected to rely more on insurgent-style attacks now that they no longer hold significant territory.

According to coalition estimates, at least 786 civilians have been killed during the three-year air campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Airwars.Com, a website that monitors casualty reports, puts the number of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes at nearly 6,000.

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