The Latest: Airstrike in IS-held area in Syria kills 20

The Syrian opposition says the new U.N. special envoy for Syria has met with officials from the High Negotiations Committee

ByThe Associated Press
January 18, 2019, 2:55 PM

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

9:55 p.m.

The Syrian opposition says the new U.N. special envoy for Syria has met with officials from the High Negotiations Committee.

HNC said Geir Pedersen and opposition officials discussed "all points that could lead to a political solution."

It released a photo of Nasr al-Hariri, who heads the committee that represents the opposition at U.N. peace talks, during his meeting with Pedersen in Saudi Arabia.

HNC said it is ready to "interact positively" with the new envoy.

Pedersen's meeting with the opposition comes after he met government officials in Damascus earlier this week where he described his talks as "constructive."

Pedersen, the veteran Norwegian diplomat, took over from Staffan de Mistura, who stepped down for family reasons after four years and four months of unsuccessful peace efforts.


6:50 p.m.

Syria's state news agency and a war monitor say an airstrike in the country's east on the last area held by the Islamic State group has killed at least 20 people.

SANA said 20 people were killed in the airstrike on the IS-held village of Baghouz.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 23 people were killed in the strike, including 10 IS members.

Both outlets blamed the U.S.-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their months-long offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.

The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.


5 p.m.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has met with U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.

Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the U.S., met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a "safe zone" in northeast Syria.

The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by Islamic State militants, killed two U.S. service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.

Graham has said he is concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal announcement had emboldened Islamic State militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.


4:50 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say an explosion outside an office belonging to an al-Qaida-linked group in the country's northwestern has killed at least 11 people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred Friday on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.

The blast comes a week after members of the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.

The Observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.

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