March 9, 2017 / 8:26 AM / 9 months ago

Air strikes southeast of Syria's Raqqa kill 23 people: Observatory

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Air strikes killed 23 civilians, including eight children, on Thursday in countryside around the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s base in Syria, a war monitoring group said.

The warplanes were believed to belong to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State militants, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The jets struck the village of al-Matab southeast of Raqqa, near the Euphrates River, the Observatory said, adding that several air raids had also pounded areas east of the city.

An alliance of Syrian militias has been waging an offensive on Raqqa with air strikes and special ground forces from the U.S.-led coalition.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces cut the last main road out of Raqqa this week, severing the highway between the city and the militant group’s stronghold of Deir al-Zor.

The U.S. military has said it makes “extraordinary efforts” to avoid civilian deaths in its bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The military’s estimates of civilians killed by coalition air strikes are generally far lower than those of monitoring groups.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by Gareth Jones

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