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US air strikes hit Islamic State militants in east Syria

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Beirut (Sept 27, 2014): Air strikes hit Islamic State and other Islamist groups in eastern Syria early on Saturday, a monitoring group said, as a U.S.-led coalition seeks to turn the tide against the militants who have captured swathes of Syria and northern Iraq.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 31 explosions were heard in the province of Raqqa, a stronghold of Islamic State, and casualties were reported.

It said warplanes also struck areas east of the desert town of Palmyra in Homs province and hit several IS checkpoints around the Kurdish town of Kobani close to the Turkish border.

The U.S.-led air campaign has yet to stop the advance of the Islamic State fighters on the town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, which has been under attack for at least 10 days. The assault has sent 140,000 refugees across the frontier since last week in the biggest such exodus in three and a half years of civil war.

"Today, they (IS fighters) have made advances on the western side of the town," Rami Abdelrahman of the Observatory said.

The United States is leading a military coalition including some Gulf and European nations to stop the advance of Islamic State, which swept across northern Iraq in June. The group has proclaimed a "caliphate" ruling over all Muslims, slaughtered prisoners and ordered Shi'ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.

The campaign has brought Washington back to the battlefield of Iraq that it left in 2011 and into Syria for the first time after avoiding involvement in a war that began the same year.
Militant groups in the region and websites commonly used by their supporters did not immediately mention any attacks on Saturday.

The targets of the air strikes on Saturday included several military bases occupied by IS including Tabqa military airport, where many members of the group were killed, the Observatory said, without giving a figure.