Dozens dead in US-led strikes on IS-run prison in Syria

BEIRUT: US-led coalition air strikes killed nearly 60 people at a Syrian prison run by the IS group, a monitor said, as Washington insisted the militants remain its only target.
The coalition has been hitting IS in Syria and Iraq since mid-2014 but has also been involved in recent confrontations with President Bashar al Assad’s forces, raising fears of the United States being drawn into Syria’s civil war.
The White House on Monday accused Syrian regime of preparing a potential chemical attack and warned it would pay a “heavy price”, but Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Washington was determined to keep a strict focus on fighting IS.
Monday’s strikes hit an IS-run jail in Syria’s Mayadeen at dawn, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the strikes killed 42 prisoners and 15 militants in Mayadeen, a large town in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Most of Deir Ezzor province is controlled by the IS and it has been the target of air strikes by both the coalition and the Syrian army and its Russian ally.
The US-led coalition said last week that it had killed IS’s top cleric Turki Binali in a May 31 strike on Mayadeen.
The militants, who seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq three years ago, are under pressure in both countries.
US-backed forces are pushing to oust them from their last major urban strongholds, Raqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. But Washington’s involvement in Syria has also become increasingly complex.
On Monday the White House said preparations were under way by Syria for a chemical weapons attack, similar to those undertaken ahead of an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town in April.
“The United States is in Syria to eliminate the IS of Iraq and Syria,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement.
“If, however, Mr Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
April’s attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun was reported to have killed at least 87 people, including many children, and images of the dead and of suffering victims provoked global outrage.
The government denied any use of chemical weapons.
Washington launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike days later against a Syrian airbase from where it said the chemical attack was launched, the first direct US action against the Syrian government. — Reuters