Middle East

US gives Syria intelligence on jihadists: sources

A man holds up a knife as he rides on the back of a motorcycle touring the streets of Tabqa city with others in celebration after ISIS militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)

BEIRUT: The United States has begun reconnaissance flights over Syria and is sharing intelligence about jihadist deployments with Damascus through Iraqi and Russian channels, sources told AFP Tuesday.

"The cooperation has already begun and the United States is giving Damascus information via Baghdad and Moscow," one source close to the issue said on condition of anonymity.

The comments came a day after Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria was willing to work with the international community against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) group, and U.S. officials said they were poised to carry out surveillance flights over Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said foreign drones had been seen over the eastern province of Deir al-Zor Monday.

"Non-Syrian spy planes carried out surveillance of ISIS positions in Deir al-Zor province Monday," the Britain-based activist group's director, Rami Abdel-Rahman, said.

Syrian warplanes bombed ISIS positions in several areas of Deir al-Zor Tuesday, an oil-rich province in the east of Syria, most of which is held by the jihadists.

A regional source told AFP that "a Western country has given the Syrian government lists of ISIS targets on Syrian territory since just before air raids on Raqqa, which started in mid-August."

ISIS, which emerged from Al-Qaeda's Iraq branch but has since broken with the worldwide network, controls large parts of Deir al-Zor and seized full control of Raqqa province, further up the Euphrates Valley, Sunday, with the capture of the army's last position, the Tabqa air base.

It has declared an Islamic "caliphate" in areas under its control in Syria and neighboring Iraq, where U.S. war planes have been targeting its positions since August 8.

U.S. officials said Monday that Washington was ready to send spy planes into Syria to track the group's fighters but that the moves would not be coordinated with the government in Damascus.

Moallem warned Monday that any unilateral military action on its soil would be considered "aggression."





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