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U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State kill 1,600 in Syria, monitor says

BEIRUT — An estimated 1,600 people have been killed since U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria began five months ago, a monitoring group said Monday.

At least 1,465 Islamic State militants have died in the allied raids, along with another 73 fighters from the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based monitor, which compiles reports from activists on the ground across Syria, condemned the deaths of an estimated 62 civilians, eight of them children.

The United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been involved in air raids and missile attacks against Islamic State positions in eastern and northeastern Syria since Sept. 23.

U.S.-led airstrikes in neighboring Iraq began six weeks earlier, after the jihadists overran Kurdish positions and advanced toward Irbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region.

The group now controls a swathe of Sunni Arab-dominated northern and western Iraq and much of eastern and northern Syria.

Recent weeks have seen Kurdish forces in both countries regain some territory, but the jihadists have remained on the offensive in Iraq's western al-Anbar province.

The Pentagon on Thursday said an offensive to recapture the Iraq's second city, Mosul, could start as early as April if a U.S. training program for five Iraqi army brigades was successfully completed.

On Monday, France announced it had deployed its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to join in the fight against Islamic State targets in Iraq.

President Francois Hollande had announced the deployment in January, following terrorist attacks in Paris by gunmen claiming allegiance to jihadist networks.

A U.S. official for the presidential convoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, confirmed the deployment, saying on social media that he welcomed the support for air operations against militant group.

The nuclear-armed warship has 21 combat aircraft and four helicopters on board, French daily newspaper Le Parisien newspaper, citing government officials.

©2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)