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Syrian Aircraft Crashes in IS-Held City09/16 06:27

   A Syrian military aircraft crashed into the de facto capital of the Islamic 
State group on Tuesday, killing at least eight people, as thousands of 
residents fled to nearby villages in anticipation of expected U.S. airstrikes 
against the militants, activists said.

   BEIRUT (AP) -- A Syrian military aircraft crashed into the de facto capital 
of the Islamic State group on Tuesday, killing at least eight people, as 
thousands of residents fled to nearby villages in anticipation of expected U.S. 
airstrikes against the militants, activists said.

   It was not immediately clear whether the plane that slammed into the 
northeastern city of Raqqa was hit by anti-aircraft fire or experienced a 
technical failure, according to an activist based in the city and the 
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

   The Raqqa-based activist, who goes by the name Fourat Alwfaa, said eight 
people were killed in the crash, including members of two families after the 
aircraft plowed into their home. The Observatory said there were casualties, 
but did not have a concrete figure.

   The Islamic State group controls a proto-state that stretches from northern 
Syria across much of northern and western Iraq. Raqqa, an ancient city on the 
Euphrates River with a prewar population of 500,000, serves as the extremists' 
stronghold in Syria.

   The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in 
Iraq since the militants tried to push toward the northern city of Irbil in 
Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region in August. President Barack Obama last 
week authorized strikes against the group in Syria as well, and his 
administration is currently trying to cobble together an international 
coalition to go after the group.

   As international attention has zeroed in on the extremists, the Syrian 
government, which largely shied away from bombing the group's territory for 
more than a year, has begun targeting cities and towns under the militants' 
control more frequently.

   Those government strikes, and perhaps even more-so the prospect of an 
American-led aerial campaign that is all but certain to target Raqqa, have 
prompted many residents to pack up and move to outlying villages, according to 
Alwfaa and another resident.

   "By God, yes, people began fleeing about a week ago," said a woman who 
requested anonymity, fearing identification by the militant group. She said 
they fled to nearby villages, away from the militant group's bases.

   Previous Syrian airstrikes killed dozens of civilians in Raqqa. Alwfaa said 
residents feared U.S. strikes would cause even more damage.


(KA)


 
 
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