- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) - The Latest on the war in Syria (all times local):

8:45 p.m.

A Syrian monitoring group and a Syrian jihadi say members of an extremist group in northwestern Syria that have fought fierce battles against al-Qaida will be evacuated to areas under control of the Islamic State group.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday hundreds of Jund al-Aqsa fighters will give their heavy weapons to the Turkistan Islamic Party, consisting mainly of minority Uighurs from China, before heading to IS-controlled areas with their light weapons.

The deal comes after days of fighting between Jund al-Aqsa and an al-Qaida-led coalition left 125 fighters dead on both sides.

A Jund al-Aqsa member who goes by the name of Karmo said they were given six days to leave, adding that members who intend to stay will have to pledge allegiance to TIP.


5:15 p.m.

Turkey’s military says the Turkish and U.S. military chiefs of staff have “confirmed” the need to fight terror groups in Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

A military statement said Gen. Joe Dunford met with his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, on Friday at Incirlik air base, which is home to warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition that is battling the extremist group. Turkey also carries out airstrikes against Kurdish militants’ bases in northern Iraq.

The military statement said Akar told Dunford that Turkey and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters had “to a great extent” taken control of the IS-held Syrian town of al Bab.

It made no reference to a possible joint operation to retake the IS stronghold of Raqqa, which Turkey’s defense minister said would be discussed.


5 p.m.

The Russian military says that its strategic bombers have struck the Islamic State group in eastern Syria. The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the Tu-95 bombers that flew from their base in Russia launched long-range cruise missiles Friday at the IS facilities near the group’s main stronghold of Raqqa.

It added that the missiles successfully hit the IS training camps and a control facility of one of the militant units. The ministry said fighter jets from a Russian air base in Syria escorted the bombers.

The raid followed other missions flown by Russia’s long-range bombers against the IS targets in the past weeks.

Russia has conducted an air campaign in Syria since September 2015, helping Syrian government forces to reverse the tide of the nearly six-year-old conflict.


3:30 p.m.

The Syrian government and an opposition monitoring group have condemned what they call Turkey’s “crimes” against the Syrian people in the northern town of al-Bab that is controlled by the Islamic State group.

Turkish troops and allied opposition fighters have been on the offensive in al-Bab for weeks trying to take it from IS, a battle that has killed hundreds of people so far.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish shelling and airstrikes have killed 45 people in al-Bab since Wednesday.

Turkey wants to clear the area near its border of IS militants.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned what it called Turkey’s violations of Syria’s sovereignty.

The condemnation was expressed in two letters addressed to the U.N. Secretary-General and President of the Security Council.

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