US Marines, artillery deployed to Syria, Pentagon confirms

Orient Net - AFP 2017-03-09 07:00:00

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The United States has sent a Marine Corps artillery battery into Syria to ’help defeat’ ISIS group in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the supposed caliphate, a Pentagon official said.

The military official said troops from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit had deployed a battery of 155mm Howitzers to an outpost in Syria.

The Marines "are ready to conduct their mission" to support the offensive on Raqqa, the official told AFP, confirming a report in the Washington Post.

The move marks a significant step for conventional US forces in Syria. 

According to the Post, the artillery deployment had been in the works "for some time" and was not part of President Donald Trump’s demand for a new plan to increase the pace of the anti-ISIS war.

The Pentagon this week announced that it had also sent extra troops into Manbij to prevent competing factions fighting each other in the former ISIS stronghold. 

US officials estimate there to be up to 4,000 jihadists in Raqqa, a city of about 300,000 residents.