British air strikes 'kill first Isis militants in Syria' as checkpoint near Raqqa blown up on Christmas Day

Previous RAF strikes had targeted only oil fields in Syria, while supporting ground forces fighting the terrorist group in Iraq

British air strikes are thought to have killed Isis militants in Syria for the first time since operations started in the country four weeks ago.

An RAF Reaper drone destroyed one of the terror group’s checkpoints near its stronghold of Raqqa using a Hellfire missile on Christmas Day.

The Ministry of Defence (Mod) report on the strike did not record any casualties but The Independent understands that the post was occupied at the time.

RAF planes launch second round of strikes on Isis oil field in Syria

Britain had previously targeted only Isis-controlled oilfields in Syria, as part of a strategy by the US-led coalition codenamed Operation Tidal Wave II.

Oil, believed to be the terrorist group’s largest source of income, became a target of operations last month as an American military spokesman vowed to “shut it all down”.

The UK’s air strikes in Iraq, which started in September 2014 following requests for help from the Iraqi government, have killed an unknown number of Isis militants while supporting Kurdish and Iraqi forces on the ground.

Much of the activity in recent weeks has focused on the battle for Ramadi, a key city that was re-taken on Sunday.

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Iraqi security forces fly the national flag after they recaptured Ramadi

Reporting on the “high intensity” operations over the festive period, a spokesperson for the MoD said: “Armed reconnaissance missions have been flown daily by RAF Tornado GR4, Typhoon FGR4, and Reaper aircraft, focusing on supporting the Iraqi security forces during their offensive operations in Ramadi, and also in northern Iraq in the area around Mosul.”

Paveway guided bombs have been used to destroy Isis buildings, tunnels, ammunition stores, weapons, as well as groups of fighters.

At least 17 fighters were killed by Tornados on 23 December, alongside a group fighting Iraqi troops, snipers and a faction armed with rocket-propelled grenades.

“Although on every occasion Iraqi forces were in very close proximity to the terrorist targets, careful planning and the accuracy of the weapons allowed all six attacks to be a success,” a Mod spokesperson said. 

More Isis militants and buildings were targeted near Ramadi on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while Boxing Day and Sunday saw the focus move to northern Iraq, near Isis’ stronghold of Mosul.

Fighting continued in areas of Ramadi today, despite Iraqi forces regaining full control of the city centre.

Brigadier General Ahmed al-Belawi told The Associated Press that clashes were underway in outlying areas where insurgents are still holed up. 

The capital of Anbar province, had fallen to Isis in May in a major setback for the Iraqi government and US-led campaign. 

Additional reporting by AP

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