US strikes IS-held mosque, Syria battle intensifies


BEIRUT (AP) — The U.S. military said today it struck a mosque that had allegedly been used as an Islamic State control center, as American-allied Syrian forces battled the extremists in their last stronghold in eastern Syria amid reports of more civilian casualties.

The U.S.-led coalition said warplanes struck the mosque in the small town of Baghouz on Monday in support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. It said the airstrike occurred as IS was using the mosque to direct attacks and employ suicide car bombs against the SDF.

"This mosque lost its protected status when ISIS deliberately chose to use it as a command and control center," said the coalition's deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, using another acronym for the group.

Hundreds of mostly foreign IS fighters are believed to remain in Baghouz and nearby areas, where the SDF began its final push Saturday after months of fighting. IS has been fighting back with suicide car bombs, sniper fire and booby traps, and has been using civilians as human shields, slowing the U.S.-backed fighters' advance.

Syrian state media reported about 70 people were killed or wounded in an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on the edge of Baghouz. It said the airstrike hit a settlement where hundreds of people were taking shelter from the fighting.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said seven children and eight women were killed late Monday in an airstrike near Baghouz. It was not immediately clear if they were referring to the same event.

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