U.S.-led airstrikes hit grain silos and other targets in Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-controlled territory in northern and eastern Syria overnight, killing civilians and wounding insurgents, a group monitoring the war said on Monday.
The aircraft may have mistaken the mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij for an ISIL base, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The U.S. military said its strikes were part of President Barack Obama’s “comprehensive strategy to degrade and destroy ISIL.”
“Although we continue to assess the outcome of these attacks, initial indications are that they were successful,” read a statement from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is coordinating the air campaign.
CENTCOM added that the grain silo it struck was in the hands of ISIL, the violent Al-Qaeda splinter group that swept through Iraq and Syria this summer.
“The storage facility was being used by ISIL as a logistics hub and vehicle staging facility,” CENTCOM said.
However, the bombing in Manbij appeared to have killed only civilians, not fighters, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, which gathers information from sources in Syria.
"These were the workers at the silos. They provide food for the people," he said. He could not give a number of casualties and it was not immediately possible to verify the information.
The United States has targeted ISIL and other fighters in Syria since last week with the help of Arab allies, and has hit ISIL in Iraq since last month. Washington says it aims to damage and destroy the bases, forces and supply lines of the violent armed group that has captured large areas of both countries.
Manbij, the target site, sits between the western city of Aleppo and the northern town of Kobane, which ISIL has been trying to capture from Kurdish forces, forcing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee over the border to Turkey. Turkish tanks have been sent to hills overlooking Kobane, and placed, some with their guns pointing towards Syrian territory where ISIL positions were visible from the Turkish side of the border.
The CENTCOM statement also listed other strikes in the region, including what it said were ISIL assets in Deir al-Zour, Aleppo and Raqqa, the heart of ISIL-held territory.
Bombs also hit ISIL vehicles near Kirkuk, a contested city near the Kurdish region of Iraq, and Sinjar, just west of Kirkuk, where thousands of Yazidis, a religious minority, sought refuge from the ISIL onslaught in August.
Participating with the U.S. in the attacks were the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Moallem on Monday said Damascus was satisfied with the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIL, adding that the airstrikes should be expanded to include all other rebel groups in Syria.
Rebel groups unaffiliated with ISIL, meanwhile, have criticized the U.S. for not targeting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorial regime, which they seek to overthrow. The White House maintains, as it has since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011, that it hopes Assad will leave power, but has not effectively backed any anti-government group.
American diplomats have denied that they are working in concert with the regime — sometimes informing Syrian officials that the raids would take place, but not asking for permission to strike.
Al-Moallem said the U.S. does not inform Syria of every strike before it happens, "but it's OK."
"We are fighting ISIS, they are fighting ISIS," he said, referring to the group by one of its acronyms.
"Until today, we are satisfied. As long as they are aiming at ISIS locations in Syria and in Iraq, we are satisfied," he said.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press