MOSCOW, September 18 (RIA Novosti) – Islamic State (IS) militants have besieged a Kurdish city and captured several villages in northern Syria on Thursday at the same time as the first drone, reportedly belonging to the United States, was spotted over the Syrian governorate of Aleppo, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the drone was spotted over Islamic State-controlled territory in the Aleppo governorate, but added that it was not immediately clear who was operating the drone.
The drone's appearance follows a strategy proposed last week by US President Barack Obama aimed to defeat the IS. Obama said that Washington would be expanding its airstrikes from Iraq to Syria and that the new operation would be similar to those conducted by the US in Yemen and Somalia, which are largely conducted using drone missile strikes.
Last month, the US leader also authorized surveillance flights over Syria and airstrikes against the IS positions in Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory claimed that Islamic State fighters have advanced near the Turkish border, seizing at least 21 villages. According to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, which referred to the statement made by the spokesman for the main armed Kurdish group in Syria, Redur Xelil, jihadists were using tanks, rockets and artillery in their attacks.
Heavy fighting continues in the strategically important city of Al-Bab, which is located 40 km northeast of Aleppo. Government forces and their opponents are battling for control of the city.
The IS, known for proclaiming hardline Islamic fundamentalism, has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012 capturing territories across Iraq and Syria. In June 2014, the group proclaimed an Islamic caliphate over its conquered regions and claimed religious authority over all Muslims globally.
According to the US Central Intelligence Agency, over 30,000 militants are currently fighting for the IS. Other sources claim that the real number could be twice as high.