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France, Russia strike Islamic State targets in Syria

France and Russia bombed Islamic State targets in Syria on Tuesday, punishing the group for attacks in Paris and against a Russian airliner that together killed 353 people, and made the first tentative steps toward a possible military alliance.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a coordinated onslaught in Paris on Friday and the downing of the Russian jet over Sinai on Oct. 31, saying they were in retaliation for French and Russian air raids in Iraq and Syria.

Still reeling from the Paris carnage that killed 129 people, France made an unprecedented appeal for European Union support and investigators said they were making progress in unraveling the plot, which was hatched in Syria and nurtured in Belgium.

Seven attackers died on Friday night, but video footage suggested that two other men were directly involved in the operation and subsequently escaped, not one as previously said.

An airstrike by a U.S. led coaltion warplane explodes on an ISIL position on November 10, 2015 near the town of Hole, Rojava, Syria.
Getty Images
An airstrike by a U.S. led coaltion warplane explodes on an ISIL position on November 10, 2015 near the town of Hole, Rojava, Syria.

Police also discovered two places in Paris where the militants probably stayed before the violence and also found a third car abandoned in the city that was used in the operation.

In Moscow, the Kremlin acknowledged that a bomb had destroyed the jet last month, killing 224 people. President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible and intensify air strikes against Islamists in Syria.

"Our air force's military work in Syria must not simply be continued," he said. "It must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable."

Syrian targets hit by Russian long-range bombers and cruise missiles on Tuesday included the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, while French warplanes also targeted Raqqa on Tuesday evening -- the third such bombing raid within 48 hours.

Paris and Moscow are not coordinating their operations, but French President Francois Hollande has called for a global campaign against the radicals in the wake of the Paris attacks.

The Kremlin said Putin spoke to Hollande by telephone and had ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French naval force heading to the eastern Mediterranean, led by an aircraft carrier, and to treat them as allies.

"We need to work out a plan with them of joint sea and air actions," Putin told military chiefs.

Russia began air strikes in Syria at the end of September. It has always said its main target is Islamic State, but most of its bombs in the past have hit territory held by other groups opposed to its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Russia is shifting because today Russian cruise missiles hit Raqqa. Maybe today this grand coalition with Russia is possible," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told TF1 television channel on Tuesday evening