8,500 IS Militants Killed in Airstrikes Over 7 Months

8,500 IS Militants Killed  in Airstrikes Over 7 Months8,500 IS Militants Killed  in Airstrikes Over 7 Months

A senior US military figure claimed that airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group have killed 8,500 extremist fighters.

US Central Command chief, General Lloyd Austin, stated that since airstrikes began in August 2014, around 8,500 fighters have been killed and over 1,000 IS vehicles destroyed in Iraq alone.

Austin was speaking while meeting Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi on Monday. He said that IS militants were killed during US-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, in comments reported by the Iraqi defense ministry, World Bulletin reported.

The US is leading an international coalition, which includes Jordan, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia, and has carried out numerous airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.

The US and partner nations have carried out more than 1,300 air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria since operations began in August, according to the force.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s President, Masoud Barzani, stated in a February 3 interview that close to 3,000 IS militants have been killed inside Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Over 2,000 airstrikes have been launched against IS positions inside Iraq and Syria since the militants took over large swaths of land in an attempt to establish an Islamic caliphate.

The latest strikes on Saturday and Sunday destroyed a number of IS units, vehicles and checkpoints as the coalition continues to try to degrade the organization.

Meanwhile, at least four people were killed and 10 others wounded when an explosive device blew up Monday in an industrial neighborhood of the capital Baghdad, according to Iraqi security sources.

Iraq has suffered a security vacuum since June last year, when IS stormed Mosul and declared what it called a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.

Last week, A US official announced plans to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, between April and May in a major operation which would involve an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Iraqi troops, including three Peshmerga brigades. The US estimates 1,000 to 2,000 IS fighters control Mosul.

The attack is planned to begin before Ramadan, which begins June 17, and the summer, said the official. The heat “becomes problematic if it goes much later than that,” he said, adding that the date could change if Iraqi troops aren’t combat-ready.

  French Aircraft Carrier in Persian Gulf

France deployed an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf on Monday as part of the US-led military campaign against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq, a defense ministry official said.

“The integration of the Charles de Gaulle in the operation (in Iraq) begins this morning,” a member of Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s staff announced as his entourage made its way to the carrier, AFP reported.

The first Rafale fighter jet took off in the morning from the Charles de Gaulle as it sailed about 200km off the coast north of Bahrain in the direction of Iraq.

The warship’s deployment will cut in half the time it takes for the planes to reach Iraq for strikes against IS from their base in the United Arab Emirates.

France launched Operation Chammal in support of the US-led coalition against IS in September.

It has nine Rafale and six Mirage fighters operating in Iraq from bases in Jordan and the UAE, along with a maritime patrol and a refueling aircraft.

  Italy on High Alert

The Italian government is on high alert after threats from IS called Italy “the nation signed with the blood of the cross.” The Vatican — the de facto seat of worldwide Christianity — is in Rome, so the city could be a target.

“The risks are real,” said Sabrina Magris, president of the International University School of Rome and Florence, the European institution that prepares negotiators for hostage and terror threats.

“The goal may be an actual attack of some kind or simply using threats to create an atmosphere of fear. But the risks shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Italy is one of a handful of major western counties that has not been on the receiving end of large-scale assaults since the September 11 attacks in the US.

Italian officials fear IS militants could enter the country amid the growing tide of refugees arriving by boat from North Africa. About 500 extra troops have been stationed to guard symbolic targets in Rome and monitor the streets of the capital for suspicious activity.