Washington, Sep 23 (IANS/EFE): The US and allied nations today launched air attacks against the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group in Syria, the US Department of Defence announced.
"Forces of the United States and allied nations have begun attacks on IS in Syria using a combination of fighters, bombers and Tomahawk missiles," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Twitter.
The US Central Command, in charge of operations in the Middle East, took the decision to begin the attacks after receiving President Barak Obama's authorisation, Kirby said in a brief statement without providing further details "given that the operation is in progress".
Kirby did not specify the participating allied nations nor did he reveal where in Syria the attacks were taking place. But citing US officials, CNN reported that the strikes targeted one of the IS strongholds in Syria, the city of Raqqa, and that Arab allies took part.
Two weeks ago Obama said the US would extend into Syria its air operations against the IS in Iraq.
The IS offensive against religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq over the past several months, coupled with grisly videos of the jihadis beheading captured Westerners, galvanised the US into attacking the group.
Obama has insisted that this operation would be different from he recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because it would not involve the deployment of US troops on the ground.
But some senior military officials have said it was impossible to defeat the IS without ground combat.
The US launched its first attack against the IS near Baghdad just over a week ago.
Until then the strikes had been limited to the jihadis' positions in the north for the protection of US diplomats and other officials in the area and for humanitarian reasons.
At the request of the president, the US Congress has also authorized the arming of Syrian rebels fighting the IS, a "key element" of Obama's strategy in stopping the jihadis.