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Second Round Of Airstrikes In Syria Target Oil Assets


There's news today that the U.S. conducted more airstrikes inside Syria. The extremist group that goes by the name the Islamic State was again the target. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is following the story he, and he joins us now. And, Tom, what specifically was being targeted in this new round of airstrikes?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, Melissa, this time it's more of an economic attack on the Islamic State. The Pentagon says there were 13 airstrikes against 12 modular oil refineries that were controlled by the Islamic State. They were all in the eastern part of Syria. The Pentagon says they're still assessing the outcome of the attack on these refineries and initially - the initial indications, they're saying, is that these airstrikes were successful.

Now, these small-scale refineries provide a lot of money to the Islamic State - estimates of 300 to 500 barrels of refined petroleum each day. That comes out to $2 million per day from all of these refineries. So it's a big hit on the Islamic State, and it's a lot different from the initial strikes on Monday where they tended to be more military targets. This time it's strictly economic.

BLOCK: And Tom, in that first round of strikes, the president made clear that there were Arab allies who were taking part along with the United States. Is that the case today?

BOWMAN: Yes. We're told that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also took part in these airstrikes with their warplanes. In the initial strikes we also had Jordan and Bahrain. But this time, just the Saudis and UAE took part in the strikes.

BLOCK: And when you think about the targets that were apparently hit today, how does that fit with the larger strategy of how they're going after the Islamic State?

BOWMAN: Well, part of the effort is of course airstrikes - taking out their command centers, taking out their oil refineries and their armor and some of their fighters. But the president said that this is a comprehensive effort. It's not just going at - conducting airstrikes. And what he has said is they want to go after the financing of the Islamic State. So that's where these strikes would come in.

They're also trying to prevent foreign fighters from coming into Syria. They're working with other countries on that. So that's part of the overall effort that they're putting together on these.

BLOCK: And Tom, you mentioned earlier that the Pentagon is still assessing the outcome of whether the intended targets were, in fact, hit.

BOWMAN: That's right. They're still assessing the - what they call bomb damage assessment of these latest airstrikes, and they're also still reviewing Monday night's airstrikes to see what happened there. They hit some buildings. They hit some armor and so forth. But they're still trying to do an assessment of those initial airstrikes as well.

BLOCK: That's NPR Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman. We were talking about the news of a new round of airstrikes against the group called the Islamic State inside Syria. Tom, thanks very much.

BOWMAN: You're welcome, Melissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.