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June 23, 2017

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US warns Islamic State 'beyond anything' it has seen

WASHINGTON -- The United States said Thursday that the Islamic State was "beyond anything" it has seen, as U.S. warplanes pressed on with airstrikes against it despite death threats against an American hostage.

Pentagon chiefs warned of the dangers of a slick, well-funded operation powered by an "apocalyptic end of days" ideology as the West reeled from the grisly execution of American journalist James Foley.

However despite threats to kill a second reporter if the U.S. did not halt airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS), the U.S. confirmed it had again bombed the militants in northern Iraq near the Mosul dam.

U.S. military leaders said the jihadist group could be eradicated if local Sunni communities reject it and regional powers unite to fight it, but only if the battle is taken into Syria and not just Iraq.

Their warnings came after the U.S. military revealed it had carried out a failed mission to rescue American hostages inside Syria, reportedly including Foley.

"They marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess," Defense Secretary Chuch Hagel said about the "barbaric" militants.

"They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen."

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group "has an apocalyptic end of days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated."

A 'very long contest'

Dempsey warned the jihadist vision of a wider Muslim caliphate could "fundamentally alter the face of the Middle East and create a security environment that would certainly threaten us in many ways."

"Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no," he said, when asked if the campaign against the group could go beyond Iraq.

He spoke of a "very long contest" that could not be won by U.S. military prowess alone, but only with regional support and that of "the 20 million disenfranchised Sunnis that happen to reside between Damascus and Baghdad."

The U.S. military said it has conducted 90 air strikes in Iraq since Aug. 8, more than half of them in support of Iraqi government forces near Mosul dam.

The murder of Foley has stoked fears in the West that the territory the militants have seized in Syria and northern Iraq could become a launching pad for a new round of global terror attacks.

And as part of that worrying trend, the U.S. State Department estimated that there were about 12,000 foreign fighters from at least 50 countries in Syria.

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