PARIS — France bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa on
Sunday night, its most aggressive strike against the Islamic
State group it blames for killing 129 people in a string of
terrorist attacks across Paris only two days before.
President François Hollande, who vowed to be “unforgiving
with the barbarians” of the Islamic State after the carnage in
Paris, decided on the airstrikes in a meeting with his national
security team on Saturday, officials said.
While France has been conducting scores of airstrikes against
the Islamic State in Iraq, it had been bombing inside Syria
only sparingly, wary of inadvertently strengthening the hand
of President Bashar al-Assad by killing his enemies.
But after militants with AK-47 rifles and suicide explosives
vests shattered the peaceful revelry of Paris on Friday night,
killing dozens of civilians in restaurants and at a concert hall,
France seemed intent on sending a clear message of its
determination to curb the Islamic State and its ability to carry
out attacks outside the territory it controls.
The French Defense Ministry said in a statement that the air
raid, coordinated with American forces, was led by 12
French aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and had destroyed
two Islamic State targets in Raqqa, the radical group’s self-
The United States provided French officials with information
to help them strike Islamic State targets in Syria, known as
“strike packages,” American officials said.
Initial reports from activists on the ground in Raqqa, which
could not be verified independently, said that hospitals had
not reported any civilian casualties. Yet they also said the
targeted sites included clinics, a museum and other buildings
in an urban area, leaving the full extent of the damage
The French military response capped another tense day in the
wake of the attacks across Paris on Friday night. The
authorities hunted for an eighth suspect believed to be on the
loose, while seeking to piece together how the assailants got
the training, weapons and explosives they used.
President Obama and other world leaders, including
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, gathered at a summit
meeting in Turkey, grappling with how to respond to the
Islamic State, the civil war in Syria and the mass emigration
from the region toward Europe.
Paris remained jittery all day, and early in the evening
unfounded reports of gunfire prompted an evacuation of the
Place de la République, in the heart of the city.
The revelations that at least four French citizens were
involved in the attacks — three brothers and a man who
lived around Chartres, about 60 miles southwest of Paris —
seemed certain to exacerbate longstanding fears in France
about the place of Muslim immigrants and converts in
French society. Even before the latest violence, the nation
was still reeling from a smaller set of deadly attacks on the
satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, at a kosher grocery and
against a police officer only 10 months earlier.
The French airstrikes on Raqqa began at 7:50 p.m. Paris
time, first taking aim at an Islamic State “command post,
jihadist recruitment center and weapons and ammunition
depot,” the Defense Ministry said. The second target, it said,
was a “terrorist training camp.”