Pen­tagon touts U.S. airstrikes in Syria

Will set chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram back ‘for years’

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stan­glin, Gre­gory Korte and Tom Van­den Brook

In a largely un­con­tested at­tack, U.S., Bri­tish and French forces un­leashed 105 mis­siles on three Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons fa­cil­i­ties early Satur­day, lev­el­ing at least one build­ing and set­ting back the coun­try’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram “for years,” Pen­tagon of­fi­cials said.

The strikes tar­geted three ar­eas of Syria: a sci­en­tific re­search cen­ter near Da­m­as­cus, a chem­i­cal weapons stor­age fa­cil­ity west of Homs, and a stor­age fa­cil­ity and com­mand post near Homs.

Lt. Gen. Ken­neth McKen­zie, di­rec­tor of the Joint Staff at the Pen­tagon, told re­porters Satur­day that the weapons used in the op­er­a­tion were a mix of sea- and air-launched mis­siles fired by U.S., Bri­tish and French forces and “suc­cess­fully hit ev­ery tar­get.”

The goal, he said, was to hit the “very heart” of Syria’s chem­i­cal weap-

“Could not have had a bet­ter re­sult. Mis­sion Ac­com­plished!” Pres­i­dent Trump In a tweet

ons pro­gram by tar­get­ing its re­search, de­vel­op­ment and stor­age fa­cil­i­ties. The strikes came one week af­ter re­ports of a grisly chem­i­cal at­tack in the town of Douma that killed more than 40 peo­ple.

“This is go­ing to set the Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram back for years,” McKen­zie said.

Syr­ian forces fired 40 sur­face-to-air mis­siles dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, mostly af­ter the at­tack was over, he said.

“They were largely in­ef­fec­tive and in­creased risk to their own peo­ple,” he said. “None of our air­craft or mis­siles in­volved in this op­er­a­tion were suc­cess­fully en­gaged by Syr­ian air de­fenses.”

He also said there was no in­di­ca­tion that Rus­sian air-de­fense sys­tems were em­ployed dur­ing the at­tacks.

McKen­zie said there were no ini­tial re­ports of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in large part be­cause the op­er­a­tion was planned to be car­ried out dur­ing the night.

“We weren’t try­ing to kill a lot of peo­ple,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Trump, in a Satur­day morn­ing tweet, called the night­time at­tack a “per­fectly ex­e­cuted strike” and pro­claimed, “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished!”

Gen. Joseph Dun­ford, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said late Fri­day that that the op­er­a­tion was “a one­time shot” but did not rule out fur­ther at­tacks.

Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad an­nounced his coun­try would re­spond to the strikes but of­fered no de­tails.

HAS­SAN AM­MAR/AP

The sky over Da­m­as­cus erupts with sur­face-to-air mis­sile fire as the U.S. launches an at­tack on Syria early Satur­day.

SYR­IAN CIVIL DE­FENSE WHITE HEL­METS VIA AP

A child re­ceives oxy­gen af­ter an al­leged poi­son gas at­tack in Douma.

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