AJA: ISIL’s New Recruits
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Tags: Foreign Policy, Governance, Risk Management, Security
Group: US-Led Strikes in Syria Kill Nearly 500 ISIL Fighters
Despite the killings, 6,000 new recruits joined ISIL in July alone, according to a Syrian rights group.
United States-led airstrikes in Syria have killed nearly 500 ISIL fighters since attacks were launched last month, Syrian rights activists said Thursday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said 464 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters have been killed since the airstrikes began on Sept. 23.
The group said another 57 fighters with the Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al-Nusra, or Nusra Front, were killed in airstrikes on the northern Syrian province of Aleppo and Idlib. Thirty-two civilians, including six children and five women, were also killed.
While coalition forces continue to shell ISIL targets, it appears that the armed group is quickly replenishing its ranks. In August – during the lead-up to U.S.-led strikes – the Observatory reported 6,000 new recruits had joined ISIL in July alone.
Al Jazeera was unable to verify Observatory figures.
Many ISIL fighters have been killed in or near Kobane, a city the group has been trying to capture from Kurdish defenders to consolidate its power in northern Syria. Fighting between the two sides raged on Thursday.
The U.S. military announced on Thursday that it had conducted four airstrikes near Kobane that “destroyed ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL command and control center.” It was not immediately clear how many fighters and civilians had been killed in the strikes.
ISIL fighters have captured dozens of Kurdish villages surrounding Kobane and forced more than 200,000 residents to flee to Turkey for safety.
Earlier this week, U.S. Central Command said its forces have conducted more than 135 airstrikes against ISIL fighters in and around Kobane, killing hundreds of fighters.
“Combined with continued resistance to ISIL on the ground, indications are that these strikes have slowed ISIL advances into the city, killed hundreds of their fighters and destroyed or damaged scores of pieces of ISIL combat equipment and fighting positions,” Central Command said in a statement.
An Associated Press journalist on the Turkish side of the border said heavy machine gun fire could be heard from Kobane on Thursday.
“The fighting has been ongoing since last night on the eastern and southern fronts. It is some of the longest clashes in Kobane,” said Kurdish activist Farhad Shami by telephone from the town. “The fighting usually only takes place at night.”
Shami said ISIL launched an attack from three fronts late Wednesday but failed to advance. Still, he said that Kurdish fighters withdrew from the Tel Shair hill that overlooks parts of Kobane.
The Syrian Observatory said ISIL fighters captured the hill, closing in on the town from the west. It said ISIL is also trying to advance from the eastern side of the town, saying there were casualties on both sides. The hill was captured by the Kurds from ISIL earlier this month.
Idris Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in the Kurdish civil administration controlling Kobane, said that although ISIL fighters moved onto Tel Shair hill, the heavy fighting there was ongoing.
“Kobane has been witnessing fierce clashes since last night. It was one of the bad nights,” Nassan said.
The Syrian Observatory, meanwhile, reported four coalition airstrikes on oil wells in the Jafra field in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour late Wednesday. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist group, also reported the airstrikes in areas held by ISIL.
The U.S.-led coalition has aggressively targeted ISIL-held oil facilities in Syria, which provide a key source of income for the group. But such strikes also endanger civilians, which could undermine long-term efforts to destroy the militant group.
The attacks on the oil industry, including refineries, have also led to a sharp rise in the price of oil products in rebel-held areas of Syria.