France bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa on Sunday night, its most aggressive strike against the Islamic State group it blames for killing 129 people in a string of terrorist attacks across Paris only two days before.
President François Hollande, who vowed to be “unforgiving with the barbarians” of the Islamic State after the carnage in Paris, decided on the airstrikes in a meeting with his national security team on Saturday, officials said.
While France has been conducting scores of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, it had been bombing inside Syria only sparingly, wary of inadvertently strengthening the hand of President Bashar al-Assad by killing his enemies.
But after militants with AK-47 rifles and suicide explosives vests shattered the peaceful revelry of Paris on Friday night, killing dozens of civilians in restaurants and at a concert hall, France seemed intent on sending a clear message of its determination to curb the Islamic State and its ability to carry out attacks outside the territory it controls.
The French Defense Ministry said in a statement that the air raid, coordinated with American forces, was led by 12 French aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and had destroyed two Islamic State targets in Raqqa, the radical group’s self-proclaimed capital.
The United States provided French officials with information to help them strike Islamic State targets in Syria, known as “strike packages,” American officials said.
Initial reports from activists on the ground in Raqqa, which could not be verified independently, said that hospitals had not reported any civilian casualties. Yet they also said the targeted sites included clinics, a museum and other buildings in an urban area, leaving the full extent of the damage unknown.