UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura informs the media one day before the resumption of the negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, May 15, 2017. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

The Latest: Syrian activists say strikes on IS town kill 20

May 15, 2017 - 8:12 am

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

Syrian activists say airstrikes on a town held by the Islamic State group near the Iraqi border have killed at least 20 civilians.

It isn't clear who is behind the raid on Boukamal but various activist groups blame the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging war on IS. The claims could not be independently verified.

Omar Abo Laila of the activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 says 15 homes in the town were destroyed in the raid on Monday. He says the victims were displaced civilians from Iraq and Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the civilian death toll is at 23 at the moment but that it is likely to rise.

Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman says IS fighters were also killed.


2:45 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria says a government delegation attending peace talks in Geneva is "here to work," sidestepping comments by President Bashar Assad that the U.N.-mediated peace talks are just for show.

Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters a day before Tuesday's start to what's expected to be about four days of indirect talks between government and opposition envoys, marking the sixth round that he has mediated since early last year.

The envoy said he wouldn't comment on Assad's remarks, aired by Belarus ONT television on Thursday. The Syrian leader said "nothing substantial" would come from the talks and that they were "merely a meeting for the media."

The delegations aren't expected to meet face-to-face, and de Mistura has called for reduced media involvement to foster a more "businesslike" atmosphere.


2 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is not planning to arm Syrian Kurds fighting the Islamic State group.

Russia has been waging an air campaign to support President Bashar Assad's forces against both IS and Syrian rebels since 2015. The United States has been providing air cover for Syrian Kurdish forces, which have driven IS from much of northern Syria.

Putin on Monday lauded the Kurdish fighters as "one of the most efficient units" against IS and said Russia has "working contacts" with them.

Turkey views the main Syrian Kurdish militia as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish rebels who have waged a decades-old insurgency against Ankara. A recent U.S. decision to provide heavier arms to the Kurds has angered Turkey, a NATO ally.

Putin insisted in televised comments that Moscow would not arm the Kurds because "they have other sources of obtaining the weapons."


12:45 p.m.

Syrian activists say an airstrike on a village held by the Islamic State group in northern Syria has killed several civilians.

It isn't clear who is behind the airstrike but various activists groups reported different casualty tolls, saying the U.S.-led coalition, which is waging war on IS, was likely behind the attacks.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says the strike hit the village of Akayrshi on Sunday night and that 12 women were killed. The activist-run Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently says the strike hit a convoy of farm workers and that 22 died.

The village is about 16 kilometers, or 10 miles, from Raqqa, IS's de facto capital.

U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian forces are advancing toward Raqqa after capturing several nearby towns and villages recently.

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