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In brief: U.S. targets IS stronghold Raqqa with airstrikes

From Wire Reports

BEIRUT – U.S.-led coalition aircraft unleashed a wave of airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa in eastern Syria in what the coalition said Sunday was one of its most sustained aerial operations carried out in Syria to date.

IS said at least 10 people were killed and many others wounded in the attacks, which activists said triggered successive explosions that shook the city and created panic among residents. The U.S.-led coalition often targets IS-held towns and cities in Syria, but the overnight strikes on Raqqa were rare in their intensity.

In a statement, the coalition said it carried out 18 airstrikes throughout Raqqa province, destroying a number of IS vehicles and 16 bridges. An earlier statement said the attacks also destroyed vital IS-controlled structures and transit routes in Syria.

“The significant airstrikes tonight were executed to deny Daesh the ability to move military capabilities throughout Syria and into Iraq,” said coalition spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Gilleran, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

“This was one of the largest deliberate engagements we have conducted to date in Syria, and it will have debilitating effects on Daesh’s ability to move” from Raqqa, he said.

Raqqa is the de facto capital of the so-called Islamic caliphate declared a year ago by the Islamic State group in territories it controls in Iraq and Syria.

In the remote northeastern city of Hassakeh, IS suicide bombers detonated an explosives-laden truck near a main power plant Sunday. State-run news agency SANA reported casualties and damage in the plant.

Bomb attacks on Shiite districts kill 15

BAGHDAD – Authorities in Iraq say bombings targeting Shiite districts have killed 15 people in and around Baghdad.

Police officials say a bomb exploded Sunday night near a cafe in the Shiite district of al-Obeidi on the eastern edge of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 14 others.

Another evening bomb blast near a small restaurant killed four people and wounded 11 others in the southeastern suburb of Jisr Diyala.

Earlier, a bomb went off at a bus stop in the northeastern suburbs of the capital, killing four people and wounding nine. Another bombing near a bus stop killed three people in Baghdad’s northwestern district of Shulla.

Suicide bomber kills 5 in Nigerian church

POTISKUM, Nigeria – A woman suicide bomber blew up in the midst of a crowded evangelical Christian church service in northeast Nigeria on Sunday and killed at least five people, witnesses said.

It is the latest bombing in a string of attacks blamed on Islamic extremist group Boko Haram that’s killed some 200 people in the past week.

Nearly 100 men and boys praying in mosques were gunned down on Wednesday, and a local official said Sunday that 21 more bodies have been recovered from burnt-out houses since then.

On Friday, the military said six women suicide bombers caused explosions that killed scores of people, including a soldier at Zabamari Muna village outside Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram.

Iranian boat seized off India’s coast

NEW DELHI – India’s coast guard seized an Iranian fishing boat off the country’s southern coast early Sunday and arrested 12 crew members, officials said.

Top Kerala state police officer T.P. Senakumar said the Iranian crew members were being questioned for possible smuggling and breach of India’s national security, but he declined to give details.

Sitanshu Kar, India’s defense ministry spokesman, said the boat was intercepted and seized early Sunday by the coast guard.

The Press Trust of India news agency said coast guard officials found one satellite phone and a Pakistani identity card on the boat, which was intercepted 60 miles off the Kerala state coast.

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