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Pentagon Claims Killed 20 Al-Qaeda Militants In Syria This Week

Fighters from Fateh al-Sham Front, which the United States says is an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

The United States killed about 20 Al-Qaeda militants this week in air strikes in northwestern Syria, the Defense Department said on January 5.

U.S. warplanes conducted two air strikes near Sarmada in Idlib province, the Pentagon said.

A strike on January 1 targeted two vehicles and killed five Al-Qaeda militants, it added, while a strike on January 3 killed more than 15 militants and destroyed six vehicles.

Local sources said the air strikes were aimed at the Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly the Al-Nusra Front, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda that the United States has designated as a terrorist organization.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on January 3 that a strike on a command headquarters of Fatah al-Sham in Idlib killed at least 25 militants.

Al-Qaeda leaders "directed terrorist operations out of this location," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. "We will not allow Al-Qaeda to grow its capacity to attack the United States or its allies around the world."

Fateh al-Sham is excluded from the current cease-fire in Syria because of its terrorist status.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa