iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. has expanded its fight against ISIS with airstrikes in Syria Monday night with a barrage of firepower that included Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles and a stealth F-22 Raptor, according to officials.
The U.S. and its allies carried out 14 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, according to a Centcom statement released early this morning. The operation marks the first time the U.S. has launched strikes in Syria, a new front in the battle against the terror group.
Several Arab nations are involved in the ongoing U.S.-led operation. Centcom identified the nations as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
A U.S. official had said the Arab nations would be dropping bombs, not just providing support.
The U.S. and its Arab partners used "a mix of fighter, bomber, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" to conduct the 14 strikes against ISIS targets, Centcom said.
The stealth F-22 Raptor took part in the mission, a U.S. defense official said, marking the first time the pricey, controversial aircraft has been used in a combat operation.
"The United States employed 47 TLAMs launched from USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf, as well as U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter, remotely piloted and bomber aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations," Centcom said.
"This is almost like a Desert Storm where we went in with lots of firepower, everything that the United States has. All of the best gear is going into this fight because we have to treat it like a very high threat environment," ABC News consultant Col. Stephen Ganyard said.
The Syrian foreign ministry said overnight that the U.S. informed Damascus' envoy to the United Nations before launching airstrikes against ISIS in the country.
The ministry issued a brief statement, carried by Syrian state media, saying that "the American side informed Syria's permanent envoy to the U.N. that strikes will be launched against the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist organization in Raqqa."
Separately, the U.S. also conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities, Centcom said. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.
In recent days U.S. officials have spoken publicly about how the Khorasan Group poses as much of a direct threat to the U.S. as ISIS.
Last week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that the U.S. military's plan for potential action in Syria included "targeted actions against ISIL [ISIS] safe havens in Syria, including its command and control, logistics capabilities and infrastructure."
Other officials had said before that surveillance aircraft have been flying over Syria for weeks gathering information on potential ISIS targets such as training camps, command and control areas, warehouses, and supply routes.
In a national address on Sept. 10, President Obama said the first part of his strategy to counter ISIS was to "conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists."
"Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL [ISIS] in Syria as well as Iraq," Obama said. "This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven."
In recent weeks, a self-described ISIS militant is believed to have killed two Americans on camera -- journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff -- as well a British aid worker. The group is suspected of holding at least two more Americans and has publicly threatened a second Briton.
As of Monday, the U.S. had launched 194 strikes against ISIS in Iraq, according to Centcom.
On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told ABC News' "This Week" that America would not conduct airstrikes in Syria alone. But already Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that some 40 countries, including a number of Arab nations, have offered various levels of support to the anti-ISIS effort. France announced last week it would join in airstrikes in the battle against ISIS.
iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Tourists around the world know Paris as the city of love. But the river Seine will soon be without some of its most popular symbols of romance.
For years, visitors to the French capital have expressed their undying love by attaching padlocks, often with names or messages inscribed on them, to the railings of some of the city's iconic bridges. But city officials in Paris announced a plan this weekend to remove the lock-laden railings and replace them with thick glass panels, paving the way for a potential end to the practice.
Authorities and residents of the City of Light have voiced disapproval for the budding tradition since the practice began. One of the leading critics of the locks is Lisa Taylor Huff, whose "No Love Locks" campaign began in January.
"Parisians, most of them, really hate these love locks," Huff told ABC News. "It's vandalism, and it's taken the ambiance away from the bridges."
François Charlottin, a graduate student in Paris, agreed. "Most people here find those locks really ugly," he told ABC News. "Imagine you're trying to get a perfect picture on the Seine and you can't see past the locks on the bridge."
The locks first started appearing on bridges in Paris around 2008, shortly after young couples in Italy began attaching padlocks to the Ponte Milvio, a bridge over Rome's Tiber River, apparently mimicking the protagonists of a popular Italian novel.
"This really captured people's imaginations," Huff said. "After Rome started banning the locks, couples from all over Europe were coming to Paris."
In Italy, officials began to crack down after the padlocks began to pile up, along with graffiti and chains, which damaged the ancient Roman bridge. A similar process is now under way in Paris.
Although groups like Huff's have been petitioning the city government for months, it was only after a parapet on the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of the locks in June that the city got serious about putting an end to the practice. Another rail collapsed a month later, requiring repairs.
Now, city officials in Paris are experimenting with panels of thick, shatterproof and graffiti-resistant glass to protect the bridges from further lock-related damage. Two panels were put up on the Pont des Arts, replacing the older railings. Huff said she expected a third panel in the next few weeks.
"The Pont des Arts is a lightweight pedestrian bridge," Huff said. "Some of the railings have 500 kilograms of locks by the time the city removes them. The one that collapsed in June weighed 700 kilograms."
Other Parisians see the locks as a tourist gimmick that damages the legacy of the city's architectural history.
"It's becoming a part of city life, but it's not a Parisian symbol," said Charlottin. "It's really only for the foreign tourists."
Add those aesthetic concerns, the mounting costs of maintaining the bridges and replacing the railings every few weeks as they filled with locks, and the city's decision appeared inevitable to lock critics such as Huff.
"They're a costly problem for the city and also a safety hazard," Huff said. "To us, this riverfront is something the city has an obligation to preserve."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Islamist militants in Algeria have purportedly responded to call from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to target Westerners by kidnapping a French mountain guide and threatening to behead him unless France halts its actions against ISIS.
In a new video that recently appeared online, two masked and armed militants are seen with a man who describes himself as a 55-year-old Nice native named Herve Gourdel.
“We are the soldiers of the Islamic State [ISIS] in Algeria responding to the message of [ISIS leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi and his spokesperson,” one of the militants says. “We give [French President Francois] Hollande, the head of the French criminal government, 24 hours to stop its offensive against the Islamic State, otherwise this hostage, French national Herve Gourdel, will be beheaded.”
The man identified as Gourdel then speaks to the camera, saying he is a mountain guide who arrived in Algeria on Saturday and was taken “yesterday” by the militants.
“They are holding me hostage,” Gourdel says. “I implore you, Mr. President, to do everything you can to get me out of this ordeal.”
The French Foreign Ministry released a statement Monday acknowledging that a French national had been kidnapped Sunday in Algeria, but said the kidnapping had not yet been claimed.
“Every measure is being expanded to find our compatriot,” the statement said. “The services of the state are mobilized and no hypothesis has been ruled out.”
Gourdel was apparently taken within hours of an ISIS spokesperson releasing an audio message to its supporters around the world urging them to target Westerners who support the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, "especially the spiteful and filthy French."
Last week, Hollande announced his nation would join the campaign in Iraq by launching airstrikes against ISIS targets. The U.S. has launched nearly 200 airstrikes against ISIS in recent weeks.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three Afghan soldiers who went missing from a Cape Cod, Massachusetts military base over the weekend were found Monday near the U.S.-Canada border, a United States defense official told ABC News.
Law enforcement officials said the men did not try to hide, but instead walked up to border patrol agents and presented themselves for asylum.
The men are currently in Canadian custody, officials said.
The three officers -- a major and two captains -- had been participating in a tabletop exercise called "Regional Cooperation 2014," which is run by Centcom and scheduled to go from Sept. 17 to 24.
Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts told ABC News that the men were last seen Saturday buying civilian clothes at the Cape Cod Mall.
The three officers were part of a 14-officer contingent from Afghanistan, officials said.
The command post exercise has been held annually since 2004 and this year included participants from six countries and focused on a peacekeeping mission. Last year's exercise was conducted in Germany.
This comes as Col. Steve Warren said earlier Monday that there was no indication the missing men posed a threat to the public.
Warren said the missing soldiers were not considered a threat because they were "thoroughly" vetted by a number of people and agencies, including the State Department, the embassy in Kabul and by U.S. forces.
"We believe based on the extensive vetting that we did prior to their deploying to the United States that they do not pose a threat," he said.
Warren said exercise participants are allowed to come and go from the base hosting the exercise, but "as a rule because it’s an unfamiliar area to them they would have US personnel accompany them if they wanted to depart post."
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A 42-minute audio recording by an ISIS spokesman was released on social media Sunday in which the group calls on Muslims to kill civilians in countries that belong to the anti-ISIS U.S.-led coalition.
"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European -- especially the spiteful and filthy French -- or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be," an ISIS spokesman says.
This latest threat comes as ISIS posts new pictures of some of its British recruits, and President Obama heads to the UN to seek an international effort to stop such ISIS fighters from traveling unimpeded to spread their war of terror.
But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told George Stephanopoulos on This Week, stopping the threat from ISIS and its fighters won't happen anytime soon.
"We think again the strategy can succeed, and most importantly that we have the greatest military in the world, they believe that," Power said. "I think the president has said it will be over several years."
U.S. and British authorities this morning are also bracing for word on the fate of ISIS hostage Alan Henning.
Over the weekend there were new pleas for mercy from his wife and from leaders of the Muslim community, even al Qaeda, that he be spared because the one time British taxi driver only went to Syria as a driver for an Islamic relief mission.
iStock Editorial(UNITED NATIONS) -- Motorcades will soon flood the area for miles around the U.N. headquarters and presidential suites at the city’s swankiest hotels will be booked solid as the 69th United Nations General Assembly kicks off this week.
By the looks of it, NYPD occupies every street corner around for blocks radiating out from the U.N.’s East River location, diplomatic security fills in the gaps and government aides travel in swarms.
Given the state of our planet, a meeting of the world’s leaders comes not a moment too soon.
“The world is facing multiple crises,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters. “Each has its own dynamics, and requires its own approach. But all have featured atrocious attacks on civilians, including children. All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions. And many have seen sharp divisions within the international community itself over the response.”
A chaotic week awaits and with the U.S. ramping up its campaign against ISIS, the world’s largest Ebola outbreak in history spreading, and the war between Ukraine and Russia unflinching, here’s what you need to know about U.N. week.
On The Agenda:
Syria was at the top of last year’s agenda and this year, it’s all about ISIS. The growing threat of the Sunni Islamic State group will dominate the floor during the general debate and on the sidelines. Behind closed doors President Obama hopes to recruit more allies to join the roster of the U.S.-led coalition. For the first time since 2009, Obama will chair a session on ISIS Wednesday afternoon, urging the Security Council to pass a resolution aimed at cracking down on foreign fighters headed for Syria and Iraq.
“Together, we will address the horrendous violence in Syria and Iraq, where conflict and governance failures have provided a breeding ground for extremist groups,” said the secretary general. “I welcome the growing international consensus to act against this serious threat to global and regional peace and security,” he added.
Following Sunday’s massive People’s Climate March through the streets of New York, some 140 leaders will take part in Tuesday’s Climate Summit, gearing up for another global discussion in Paris next year.
Even the Secretary General hit the streets on Sunday, along with an estimated 400,000 activists, according to the event’s organizers.
The Ebola outbreak has now killed more than 2,700 people according to the World Health Organization. With nearly 5,762 cases across five West African nations, it is the largest Ebola outbreak in history.
The problem demands a global response. America’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said last week, “the United Nations was built for global challenges like this.”
The director-general of the WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, described the outbreak as “the greatest peacetime challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced.”
High level meetings are slated for Thursday, just a week after the Security Council declared Ebola a “threat to international peace and security.”
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will skip this year’s General Assembly and the country’s permanent representative to the U.N., Bashar Ja’afari will keep the seat warm. As the three and a half year Syrian civil war rages, the head of the U.N. commission told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva last week “the Syrian government remains responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, killing and maiming scores of civilians daily.”
But newcomer Hadi al-Bahra, the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, is in town and spoke with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff on Sunday:
Though invited, Russian President Putin is blowing off the whole affair. As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will vote this week on behalf of the Kremlin.
And for the first time in 15 years, North Korea is sending a foreign minister, Ri Su-yong, reports South Korean publication Joongang Daily. According to the paper, this is only the third time the country has sent a representative since the Hermit Kingdom joined the United Nations.
A few notable rookies will make their debut at the General Assembly, including Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is Modi’s first trip stateside after he was denied a visa back in 2005 for his failure to stop violent religious riots in 2002.
Former military strongman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, will represent his country for the first time since taking office in June.
The world’s newest head of state, Afghanistan’s President-elect Ashraf Ghani, will be watching from Kabul this year. After two rounds of voting and months of diplomatic wrangling, Ghani’s victory was announced last weekend and he is expected to be sworn in early next week.
It’s that time again when the Iranian head of state and the American president are within feet of each other. For most of the year, more than 6,000 miles separate President Rouhani and Obama, but this week the two leaders will both attend the General Assembly. Last year rumors swirled about a possible handshake that culminated with a quick phone call as Rouhani drove to JFK airport.
And while the two leaders are not expected to meet at the U.N., Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif met for more than an hour on Sunday. Kerry noted that “this week is an opportunity to make additional progress” and stressed that “it is our intention to do so.” A State Department official said “going forward, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif agreed to meet further as needed while in New York this week.”
iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- Efforts to reach a lasting cease-fire in Gaza will resume this week in Egypt when a second round of talks between Israelis and Palestinians begin on Tuesday.
The long-term issues include Israel's demand to disarm Hamas and other militant groups, essentially demilitarizing Gaza. The Palestinians, meanwhile, want the blockade lifted and the construction of an airport and seaport.
All of those issues, however, will take a backseat to the reconstruction of Gaza, which will top the agenda at the Cairo talks.
The rebuilding of Gaza is the one problem that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have a shared interest in solving now. They know if the serious humanitarian problems are not addressed -- which include a lack of housing, medical facilities, power and water -- Hamas militants could exploit the situation, fire rockets and kick off another round of violence.
The United Nations estimates the seven-week war this summer left nearly 18,000 homes, schools, hospitals and public buildings severely damaged or destroyed.
iStock/Thinkstock(BERLIN) -- A member of FIFA's executive committee believes Qatar will lose its right to host the 2022 World Cup.
Speaking to Sport Bild on Monday, German member Theo Zwanziger said he personally thinks the soccer tournament will not end up taking place in Qatar because of the extreme heat in the country and the effects it may have on players and fans.
FIFA responded by saying, "These were personal remarks by Theo Zwanziger as he stressed himself and we do not comment personal statements."
iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- With his face covered by a camouflage balaclava and a Midwestern aw-shucks tinge to his voice, Hunter from Illinois called on other Westerners to join him in fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The man who claims to be, and sounds like, an American appeared on a three minute video released on YouTube by a media outlet associated with the Vostok Battalion, one of the main separatist groups fighting against Ukrainian troops.
“I arrived here to help, help New Russia, Novorossiya, become an independent state,” he said in response to a question by someone behind the camera. Novorossiya is the tsar-era name for the region favored by the separatists.
Hunter, who did not provide his last name in the video, said he joined the Vostok Battalion in the city of Donetsk “about a month” ago. It appears that he does not yet speak Russian, as the questions were translated for him and he responded in English.
He urged other Westerners to join him.
“People with U.S. military experience would be very valuable here,” he said.
Asked for his views on the conflict, Hunter admitted his knowledge of the situation is “limited,” but blamed the Ukrainian government for ignoring the will of the people.
“It seems to be a very simple, straightforward situation and the Kiev junta does not necessarily, I believe, reflect, they don’t, they don’t consider the popular opinion of the people of Donbass,” he said, referencing the common name of the region.
He suggested, as a solution, that Ukrainian authorities cede the territory in the east.
“It’d be better for everybody if they’d just come to a peaceful resolution. Give a reasonable amount of territory to the new state of Novorussia and, you know, make a peaceful, peaceful arrangement,” he said.
There had been at least one other American fighting in Ukraine, but on the other side of the conflict.
Mark Paslawsky, a Ukrainian-American U.S. Army veteran from New Jersey, was fighting for a pro-Ukrainian militia under the non de guerre “Franko.” He was killed in battle in late August.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Three Afghan national army officers have gone missing while in the United States for a joint military training exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod, U.S. military and law enforcement officials said.
They arrived in the country on Sept. 11, and were reported missing by base security personnel late Saturday. They were last seen at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis, Mass.
A Centcom official told ABC News there is no indication that the Afghan men reported missing pose any threat to the public. Officials said all the Afghan military personnel were fully vetted before they arrived.
Base and local police and state authorities are working together to locate the three Afghans. There are still approximately a dozen Afghan soldiers still participating in the exercise, which ends Sep. 24.
A National Guard spokesman told ABC News that officials are trying to piece together the missing Afghanistan National Army senior officers' movements.
"It's tough to say what they were doing at the mall. We are gathering all of the information we can on the officers' now,'' spokesman James Sahady said.
Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said the investigation is being run by the FBI and the Department of Justice, but Massachusetts state troopers are assisting in "putting the word out" and searching the area around Camp Edwards.
The three officers were participating in Central Command's Regional Cooperation exercise, an annual command-post exercise. This year's exercise runs Sept. 17-24 and includes representatives from five different nations and more than 200 participants.
Just last weekend, two Afghan policemen in Washington, D.C., for a DEA training program at Quantico, Va., also went missing while on a sightseeing trip to Georgetown.
The two men, who were part of a group of 31 Afghan police officers in the U.S. for the multi-week program, were found safe somewhere outside of D.C., but officials would not say exactly where, ABC affiliate WJLA-TV reported.
According to WJLA-TV, the DEA said the two men left the group because they did not want to go back to Afghanistan.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The last Russian oligarch to challenge President Vladimir Putin politically -- and pay dearly for it -- says he's ready to try again.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia's richest man and the head of Russian energy giant Yukos. But after he made political moves against Putin, he was quickly tried and convicted on fraud charges in 2003. His company was dismantled and he would spend nearly the next decade in prison.
Khodorkovsky's takedown sent a strong signal to the rest of Russia's powerful tycoons not to meddle in politics, lest they suffer a similar fate. It seems the message got through. In the decade since then, none have tried.
But now Khodorkovsky is back. Putin pardoned him and released him from prison in December, a move that was widely seen as an effort to tamp down on international criticism of Russia before hosting the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
At the time, Khodorkovsky insisted he had no interest in challenging Putin.
"The struggle for power is not for me," he said.
It appears that is no longer the case. In interviews with European publications this weekend, Khodorkovsky said he was "ready" to become Russia's president and pledged to enact political reforms.
"I would not be interested in the idea of becoming president of Russia at a time when the country would be developing normally," he told France's Le Monde newspaper, according to AFP.
"But if it appeared necessary to overcome the crisis and to carry out constitutional reform, the essence of which would be to redistribute presidential powers in favor of the judiciary, parliament and civil society, then I would be ready to take on this part of the task," he added.
In a separate interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, Khodorkovsky warned that the longer Putin remains in power, the more likely Russia is headed towards a bloody disintegration.
Khodorkovsky's comments come as he is set to help launch a group called Open Russia, which will seek to organize the opposition against Putin's rule.
Yet if Khodorkovsky dreams of personally wresting the Kremlin from Putin's grasp, he has a tough road ahead.
Putin remains firmly in power, having engineered a political system that has marginalized any meaningful opposition. He also controls most media, especially the powerful television stations.
Khodorkovsky, meanwhile, has limited leverage, living in self-imposed exile in Switzerland. Given what happened last time he got involved in politics, and also that shortly before his release last December prosecutors hinted at new charges against him, it's unclear what might happen to Khodorkovsky if he returns to Russia.
iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRO, Egypt) -- At least two people were killed in a bombing outside Egypt's foreign ministry in Cairo on Sunday.
The incident comes on the heels of numerous attempts over past months to evacuate street vendors who live and work in the building's area in the Boulaq neighborhood, as workers have not had the best relationships with government authorities.
The bomb was located behind a tree near the Sultan Abu Eala mosque by the foreign ministry in downtown Cairo. The incident prompted the evacuation of five schools, and all major roads leading to the site were closed.
While authorities did not disclose any suspects, they are calling the explosion an act of terrorism as an investigation continues.
iStock/Thinkstock(DENPASAR, Bali) -- Indonesian authorities say Chicago native Tommy Schaefer admitted that he killed his girlfriend's mother while the family vacationed last month at the upscale St. Regis resort in Bali.
Schaefer's girlfriend, Heather Mack, who is three months pregnant, has also confessed to witnessing her mother's murder and helping to dispose of her body, police in Bali said.
"Both of them have confessed," Bali Regional Police Chief Colonel Djoko Heru Utomo said. "Tommy was the one who carried out the killing."
"Heather thought that Tommy did not mean to kill her mother," Utomo said.
Mack, 19, and Schaefer, 21, have been behind bars since the gruesome discovery of 62-year old Sheila von Wiese-Mack's body, found stuffed inside a silver suitcase left in the trunk of a taxi last month.
Mack previously claimed her mother died during an armed gang attack that she and Schaefer escaped. But Indonesian investigators say surveillance video shows Mack's mother and Shaeffer arguing in the hours before the murder.
Mack's attorney declined a request for comment from ABC News.
According to Bali authorities, Schaefer allegedly killed von Wiese-Mack because he was "hurt and offended" following an argument.
"In Indonesia, you get credit for admitting and cooperating. So he might think this will save him some time if he is ever sentenced," said defense attorney Janet Johnson, who is not involved in the case.
Despite these reported new confessions, the couple has yet to be formally charged.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The leader of what is referred to as the moderate Syrian opposition has a message for the world: give us the proper support and we can end the two-pronged war in Syria against dictator Bashar al-Assad as well as ISIS in “three years max.”
Syrian Opposition Coalition president Hadi al-Bahra will address the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday to plead for American and western aid to defeat Assad and ISIS militants in Syria.
“Currently I am sitting with you and fighting on two fronts. We are fighting in Damascus against the regime, we are fighting in Aleppo against ISIL,” Bahra said. “We are in the fight and will continue to fight. But we need your assistance. This danger now is not a Syrian issue. It is proved now that it is not a regional issue. It is also expanding now to be threat in Europe and even to the U.S.”
Bahra was elected president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces in July after serving as a representative for the coalition of rebel groups fighting Assad during peace negotiations in Geneva last spring. During an interview with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff, Bahra said he was proud of his Syrian countrymen who took up arms to fight for their country.
“Actually, we aspire and look back to the American Revolution and we see now this story repeating itself. We are the normal Syrians fighting for our freedom and to transfer our political system to democracy,” he said.
This week, Congress gave President Obama authority to provide funding and military training to Syrian opposition forces led by Bahra. Critics are skeptical that arms provided by the West could fall into the wrong hands and that the vetting and training process will take too long to effectively combat ISIS.
“I assure you all the aid will go to moderate national Syrian army, the Free Syrian Army, and we will be very careful with it,” Bahra said.
Bahra says he is confident in the opposition’s ability to win the fight in Syria without U.S. boots on the ground.
“We would like to win our own freedom,” he said. “By our own people, and we are ready to sacrifice everything to win back our freedom and our constitutional rights.”