December 14, 2017
Friday, September 26, 2014

ISIS tightens siege of Syria border town; more Europeans join alliance

"This is not a threat on the far side of the world. Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member" Pirme Minister David Cameron told British lawmakers.

Islamic State fighters tightened their siege of a town on Syria's border with Turkey today despite US-led air strikes aimed at defeating the militants in both Syria and Iraq, in a coalition which has now drawn widespread European support.

Washington's closest ally in the wars of the last decade joined the alliance at last today after weeks of weighing its options: Britain's parliament voted 542 to 43 to back Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to join air strikes on Iraq.

Belgium's parliament also voted 114 to 2 today to take part and Denmark said it would send planes. Six Belgian F-16s took off for a staging post in Greece even before the vote.

"This is not a threat on the far side of the world. Left unchecked, we will face a terrorist caliphate on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member, with a declared and proven intention to attack our country and our people," Cameron told British lawmakers.

Until this week France was the only Western country to answer President Barack Obama's call to join the US-led campaign. Since Monday, Australia and the Netherlands have also joined. Today, Germany expressed support for the mission despite saying it would not send aircraft of its own.

The coalition also includes several Arab states, all led by Sunni Muslims alarmed at the rise of Islamic State.

European countries have so far agreed only to strike targets in Iraq, where the government has asked for help, and not in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has not given permission, although he has not objected.

The White House said it was pleased at the British decision and the pace at which the coalition was growing.

NATO member Turkey has been conspicuously absent from the coalition against Islamic State, angering its Kurdish residents.

"They took all their furniture, vehicles and weapons. Then they planted roadside bombs and destroyed the headquarters," said the sheikh who declined to be identified. "They don't move in military convoys like before. Instead they use motorcycles, bicycles, and if necessary, they use camouflaged cars."

Tribal and local intelligence sources said an air strike on Thursday near Bashir town, 20 km (12 miles) south of Kirkuk, had killed two local senior Islamic State leaders while they were receiving a group of militants from Syria and Mosul. Ongoing fighting makes it impossible to verify the reports.

Sheikh Anwar al-Assy al-Obeidi, the head of a large tribe in Kirkuk and across Iraq, told reporters there were now fewer killings because fighters could not operate as openly.

"They were executing people like drinking water ... Now the air strikes are very active and have decreased the (militants') ability," said Obeidi, who fled to Iraqi Kurdish-held territory this summer after Islamic State blew up his home.

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Tags:  World  Syria  Iraq  ISIS  Europe  Nato  Turkey  UK  US  France  Germany  Denmark  

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