Syria Daily, Sept 23: US Airstrikes & Missiles Hit Islamic State


LATEST: Map — Islamic State Advance on Kurdish Center of Kobane in Northern Syria


Audio Analysis: The US Airstrikes — “It’s What Happens on the Ground That Is Important”

UPDATE 1930 GMT: One of the far-from-clear — and important — stories of today’s airstrikes is who exactly the US hit.

The Islamic State part is easy enough, with the attacks on the group in Raqqa, Deir Ez Zor, and positions in eastern Syria near the Iraq border.

The confusion surrounds the US claim that it struck “Khorasan”, a group only outed a week ago by US intelligence services as a terrorist threat.

The Defense Department’s statement is that the majority of 47 Tomahawk missiles — the first wave of the attacks — were directed at eight “Khorasan” positions “west of Aleppo”.

However, the claims on social media — supported by videos and pictures — is that the US actually struck locations of the Islamist insurgent faction Jabhat al-Nusra. In particular, a strike on Kafar Daryan in Idlib Province, which is “west of Aleppo”, is being discussed.

While claims are circulating of casualties — including civilians — the only named victim is a Jabhat al-Nusra fighter:

And Jabhat al-Nusra has now released a photo of its damaged headquarters in the town:

The US Defense Department made no reference at all to Jabhat al-Nusra — named by Washington as a “terrorist organization” in late 2012 — in its statement on the airstrikes.

Amid Washington’s rather vague statement and the confusion on the ground, media are issuing conflicting lines over “Khorasan”. Some are saying it is fighting alongside Jabhat al-Nusra; others says its leading members were with the Islamist group but split at some point in the past year.

So did the US actually hit eight Jabhat al-Nusra buildings and houses believing that members of “Khorasan” — which has no infrastructure like a command-and-control headquarters — might be hosted there?

UPDATE 1550 GMT: The Pentagon’s before-and-after pictures of the Finance Ministry in Raqqa, hit by one of the Tomahawk missiles:


And footage of a strike on an Islamic State position:

UPDATE 1530 GMT: Lieutenant General William Mayville has been describing military operations in a Pentagon press conference.

He said the initial attacks were by Tomahawk missiles fired from US warships — most of the 47 missiles were aimed at the Khorasan group, which “was in the final stages of plans to carry out attacks against Western targets and potentially against the US homeland”.

The second wave was attacks by F-15s, F-22s, and other warplanes “launched from bases in the region…against Islaimic headquarters and camps.

In a third wave, F-18s were launched from the USS George H W Bush in the northern Arabian Gulf. Joined by other aircraft, they attacked camps and combat vehicles, mainly in the far east of Syria.

Aircraft from Arab countries were mainly in the third wave, but also participated in the second wave of attacks.

UPDATE 1520 GMT: Residents of Raqqa, the largest Syrian city controlled by the Islamic State, have been speaking to Martin Chulov of The Guardian about the airstrikes.

They said the Governorate building, Tabqa airport, the Brigade 93 base near the city, and the headquarters of the Raqqa TV station were among the targets.

Claims are circulating of 30 Islamic State fighters killed. Electricity was cut for 90 minutes. The city is reportedly quiet, with many people staying at home, but the market reopened.

One resident expressed sympathy with Syria’s insurgents, amid unconfirmed claims that they were also struck:

Many of us were upset as we heard today that Idlib was attacked and some headquarters of Jabhat Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham were attacked.

We felt that the air strikes aren’t against ISIS but against other groups. In the beginning, I was excited about the air strikes but now I fear these attacks and the motivations behind them.

UPDATE 1500 GMT: President Obama’s statement welcoming the strikes in Syria on the Islamic State:

Obama hailed the participation of Arab States in the operation: “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this fight is not America’s alone.”

The President also praised “opposition fighters who are going up against ISIL [the Islamic State] on the ground”.

And he referred to attacks on “seasoned Al Qa’eda operatives called the Khorasan Group” (see update below).

UPDATE 1145 GMT: General Martin Dempsey, the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has hailed airstrikes as a success: “We wanted to make sure that ISIL knew they have no safe haven, and we certainly achieved that.”

Dempsey played up the claimed involvement of Arab states — Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar — in the operations as proof of a coalition effort:

Once we had one of them on board, the others followed quickly thereafter. We now have a kind of credible campaign against [the Islamic State] that includes a coalition of partners.

UPDATE 1115 GMT: The Russian Foreign Ministry has condemned the US airstrikes:

Attempts to pursue own geopolitical goals through violating the sovereignty of other states only escalates tensions and aggravates the situation even further. Moscow has repeatedly warned that those who initiated one-sided military scenarios bear full international legal responsibility for the consequences.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that those who initiated one-sided military scenarios bear full international legal responsibility for the consequences.

UPDATE 0730 GMT: Unconfirmed claims are circulating that the US airstrikes have also hit a headquarters of the Islamist faction Jabhat al-Nusra in Aleppo Province, causing casualties.

Jabhat al-Nusra split with the Islamic State in spring 2013 over a dispute about leadership of the jihadist movement in Syria. The faction fights alongside the main Syrian insurgent blocs, but it is still on the US list of terrorist organizations.

However, the US Central Command indicated that its target is the Khorasan Group, a small faction identified as an enemy last week by the US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Central Command announced, “The United States has also taken action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned Al Qa’eda veterans — sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group — who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.”

The Command said it carried out eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets west of Aleppo, including training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building, and command and control facilities.

US intelligence said Khorasan is led by Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti whom it claims was Al Qa’eda’s “senior representative” in Iran. The Americans say al-Fadhli arrived in Syria in April 2013 and began working with Jabhat al-Nusra, but subsequently split from the organization.

The US also claims that Khorasan also includes Abd Al-Rahman Muhammad al-Juhni, a Saudi national designated by the Treasury as “part of a group of senior Al Qa’eda members in Syria formed to conduct external operations against Western targets”.

The US has launched airstrikes and missiles against Islamic State targets in northern Syria.

The attacks began at about 3:30 a.m. local time (0030 GMT) on Tuesday, with a first wave of about 20 strikes in 90 minutes. Other waves followed.

A Department of Defense spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, said:

I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against the Islamic State terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk land attack missiles.

The decision to conduct theses strikes was made earlier today by the US central command commander under authorisation granted him by the Commander-in-Chief [President Obama]. We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate.

Central Command said in a statement that the attack consisted of 14 airstrikes and 47 Tomahawk missiles launched from the warships USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf.

Islamic State buildings in Raqqa, its base city in northern Syria, and positions on the border with Iraq were hit. A US official said targets included training sites, supply lines, and arsenals, and added that drones were involved.

A reliable Syrian source on social media claims the US has also hit Deir Ez Zor in eastern Syria and the suburbs of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, in the northwest:

US officials said Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE took part in the operations. One Department of Defense official said the Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain were “full participants”, while another said Qatar sent military aircraft but did not carry out strikes.

Senior Administration advisors, including the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the US Ambassador to the UN, said last weekend that Arab involvement was a prerequisite for an expansion of American airstrikes into Syria against the Islamic State.

The attacks come a day before President Obama leads a session of the UN Security Council on action in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State.

The Assad regime, which had demanded that it be told of any planned attacks, said it was notified. The Foreign Ministry issued a statement: “The Americans had informed the Syrian representative at the United Nations that strikes would be carried out against the terrorist Islamic State organisation in Raqqa.”

Damascus later said that US Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter Monday to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, informing him of the impending strikes.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied the claim:

We did not provide advance notification to the Syrians at a military level, or give any indication of our timing on specific targets. Secretary Kerry did not send a letter to the Syrian regime.

The letter was relayed to Damascus by Iraq’s foreign minister, a statement issued by Syria’s foreign ministry said

Al-Moallem, had warned this week that any airstrikes must be pursued under a UN resolution “to combat the terrorism of the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other Al Qa’eda-linked terrorist organizations” rather than to fulfil “the hidden intentions of the US and its allies…[who] have conspired against Syria for more than three years”.

The US began airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State, which had advanced through the north and west of the country, on August 8. President Obama said on September 10 that an American campaign in both Iraq and Syria would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the jihadists.

Map: Islamic State Advance on Kurdish Center of Kobane in Northern Syria

A map of the Islamic State’s advance over the past week on the Kurdish center of Kobane in northern Syria, near the Turkish border:


Kurdish forces claimed on Monday that they had checked the jihadist offensive, which has taken over scores of villages and prompted the flight of 130,000 civilians to Turkey.

Israel Downs Syrian Warplane Near Demilitarized Zone

The Israel Air Force has shot down a Syrian Su-24 jet fighter.
The Israeli military said it fired a Patriot missile at the warplane because it was “infiltrating Israeli territory”.

The military claimed the Patriot was launched when the jet ventured 800 meters “into Israeli territory”. By the time the missile hit the warplane, it had returned to Syrian airspace. It fell “over the Quneitra area”, near the demilitarized zone of the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria.

Claimed footage of two Syrian pilots parachuting from the stricken aircraft:

Israel has occupied part of the Golan Heights since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The intercept by Israel of the Syrian aircraft is the first since 1989.

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  1. Re: US intelligence said Khorasan is led by Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti whom it claims was Al Qa’eda’s “senior representative” in Iran.

    Do you mean Iraq?

    • NO, they meant Iran… Yes, Alqaeda has some interesting support from Iran and a nice history of being stationed there.. but that would probably bother people who think Iran only loves Shia terrorists.

      Iran loves chaos and terror in arab lands, and if that be through Alqaeda, Hamas, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, NDF, etc etc, Iran is there to pay and support any armed group them whether sunni or shiite… goal is simply chaos in arab lands no matter from who, thus turning attention away from Mullahs nuclear work and having a deck of cards of terror to throw down whenever they are under pressure for freedom for their own citizens.

      So, yes, Alqaeda in Iran.. surprise

  2. According State departement Muhsin al Fadhli was one of the few insiders who received a notice of the impending attack on the eve of September 11, 2001.

    Al-Fadhli had the small cell of al-Qaeda in Iran (AQ) under his control.

  3. “” Iran allowed AQ facilitators

    Muhsin al-Fadhli

    and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria.

    Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.

  4. So where is the oh so powerful Syrian Air defence. How come the Russians can only talk now about how this bombing campaign is destabilizing the region. As if Syria has been stable for the last 3 years.

    The only thing downed today was a couple Syrian Jets, after a night where F22s and B2s and jets from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, and Qatar flew across the entire of Syria, the Syrian airforce and defense has proven it was a joke and does not control any air space.

    Its also quite obvious now that last year Obama didnt avoid hitting Ass-ad because there was threat of a plane being downed, but because Obama cowardly avoided foreign policy decisions that were tough.

    Bush was an aggressive idiot, but Obama is a smart coward. So far his cowardice has help the Syrian catastrophe just as much as Iran and Russia have.

    I just wonder how Assad an co can continue with the silliness (trying to save face) that America informed them of the strikes. Dont Assadists yelp everyday about how the USA and Gulf created ISIS.

    It will be an interesting few days watching Muallem and the other Assad press make fools of themselves as usual. All of this while Iran begs to join the group attacking ISIS but in exchange for the USA lightening up in the Nuclear negotiations (makes clear the iranian intentions doesnt it)…

    • attacking the airforce of the strongest country in the world, when they are going to bomb your most dangerous enemy, probably seems a good idea only to you

      • Guess your admitting that Assads foreign ministry was just barking when they (Muallem & Bouthaina Shaaban) said they would down any US plane…

        Now Bahrain just announced Saudi and Emirati jets flew some sorties LOL…

        Guess it’s similar to Assad threatening to repay Israel back, and then Israel bombs him this week again.

        • yes i think they were barking, you thought they will shot down any plane?

          you can talk about how they lie or whatever, but the reality is this is just another major boost to the government

          • I didn’t think, I was absolutely sure they wouldn’t dare. But whats funny is anyone painting the fact that US, Saudi and Emirati jets flying over Syria are a win for the Syrian regime. Does anyone really think the US and arab allies will work the attack in such a way that let’s SAA and Hezbollah take these positions from ISIS.

            Watch for who takes the places back from ISIS and what ISIS does next out of desperation (attack Deir al Zoor or Kweires airport) before calling the regime spin a win.

          • Have to agree with Bistani here. The US attacks if they just limit themselves to destroy IS are a MAJOR boost to Assad. He has all the time now to concentrate on the moderate rebels. Rebels who risk loosing Nusra in their side. Change of policy please.

            • It’s definitely not a MAJOR boost to Assad. He might get some short term benefits and it may relieve a bit of pressure from Assad in Palmyra but the US is not stupid enough to be the airforce for the regime. If the US were seen as supporting Assad then extremeist groups would have people lining up all over the world to fight with them. Precision airstrikes always attack the command and control, communications centers (fixed positions) in the enemies rear positions before they hit the front lines. Let’s give it another few weeks and see who benefits. Expect Kobane to get some relief soon much like how it took a bit of time to bail out the Yezidis in Iraq.

              • Very big help indeed to Assad…right in the moment he needed it more. US going after IS only and nusra. IS was the only force defeating Assad in syria whilst rebels in 2014 had a terrible year vs both. Make the math….

              • You´re intentionally forgetting that it´s not US only, please look at other countries taking part in the coalition and ask urself if e.g. KSA and Qatar would ever act as Assads airforce? Safe to assume it wasn´t easy to get GCC folks to join politically rather risky journey -> only way I see is that they must´ve been given assurances that both main problems will be dealt in same go. Other problem is Daesh (+ it´s exponential growth) and another is the guy who is saying he was “informed about airstrikes”.

              • @FLZ – The other Arab countries are mostly for show and legitimacy. Look at Iraq (160+ US strikes vs. 1 for France). The vast majority of attacks will be from the US. But good point you make. The GCC all want Assad gone and in exchange for their help they want a Sunni leader as a neighbor. Assad is going to continue to spread propaganda about the US acting as the Syrian Air Force as it directly benefits him to do so.

              • Understand legitimacy perspective and it makes sense, but there´s more than that. First, they seem to be more involved than in Libya, e.g. all except one reportedly carried strike sorties while in Libya they were mainly doing recon. Second, they provide religious and regional legitimacy – when KSA and Qatar are heavily involved Iran and Shia involvement behind the scenes can be pretty much ruled out. Thirdly they bring virtually unlimited financial resources to coalition, US budgeted 500M USD for rebel training is pocket money in these circles; e.g. Qatar is planning to spend ~400 times more for 2022 World cup.

                My feeling is that it hasn´t been best week for Bashar&co; first they learn that US will strike Syria but with moderates help, not Assad. Then Iran is excluded from coalition. Last, when first coalition countries are announced it consists his and Iran´s arch-enemies.

              • Hate to be cliche, but feels kinda like 1990s all over again, the USA and gulf allies along with Jordan and Egypt attack Iraq all together… a few months later a No Fly Zone over Iraq and then the failed state is left to whither until leader and entire system is brought down on the pretense of harboring terrorists (2003)

                This time another foe of KSA will be brought down tho… last time Saddam, this time Bashar.

                No coincidence Iran is pushing for anything anywhere (Yemen) because what’s coming is a loss and its slow and torturous and already cost too much (losing Maliki and now Bashar)

              • The intent in Libya was always to be the Libyan rebel airforce. They just had to legitimize the mission under the pretense of a humanitarian mission to protect civilians. Similar in Syria. The intent is to remove Assad and ISIS from power but the mission is legitimized as a mission on extremeism to take out ISIS.

  5. Joke of the day

    Russia criticized the U.S.- led airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria Tuesday, saying they should have been agreed with its ally Damascus and would

    fuel tension in the region.

    “Attempts to achieve one’s own geopolitical goals in violation of the sovereignty of countries in the region only exacerbate tensions and further destabilise the situation ” the Russian ministry said.

    After the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea Putin probably has lost his mind…………….

    • It’s pretty ballsy for the Russians to dare to talk about the sovereignty of other states after their Crimea stunt. I don’t see how they can do it with a straight face. It’s pretty incredible considering they’ve invaded two neighbors in a six year span because those neighbors dared to have policies independent of Moscow. They would’ve also already invaded the Baltics if those countries hadn’t joined NATO. Russia is about the last country on Earth that should be crying about sovereignty. At least we can say militants in Syria were threatening the US. Russia can make no such claims about Georgia and Ukraine.

  6. suprised to see noone has accused obama to be a syrian sunni baby killer, because he is bombing IS and the “civilians” that chose to stay in their territory.

  7. Very nice finally to see the US bomb the hell outta IS but i have a fear, as stated in the past weeks, that the real advantage in the short term goes to Assad only. Assad must be celebrating as now that the US is fighting IS and JN (whom by the way was fighting IS) Assad has all the time to concentrate in bombing moderate rebels only. Syria`s major news network already started their revolting act to play as US partner`s in fight against terror and more worrying news that jaafari was told beforehand of the upcoming strikes in Syria. I mean US strikes on IS are freeing more Assad`s hands than the rebels for now.

    • this didnt happen overnight, this is a result of a longterm strategy to present oneself as the only viable non religious genocidal option, its been in play for over a year.

      very impressive strategy from syria, but what impresses me more than the concept is that they actually made it work

      • @Bistani.

        Yes i agree and i spoke about this scenario months ago. If Assad pulls this off as he surely planned in yrs, we must give him credit to be a mastermind. If the US dont actively help the rebels (weapons are the least) like paving the way for a NFZ when IS removed, then again i see the rebels in a very very bad position. And honestly i dont think Obama will go over the point of just bombing IS. Iran nuke on the table….US will not push it more than hitting IS

        • No doubt that Assad is a really smart guy to have held out this long and twisted so much in his favor. I’m sure he has some smart advisors as well. He might be held along with Nazi Germany as one of the best at winning the propaganda war. However, just like Nazi Germany all good things must come to an end [sarcasm]. The odds are beginning to stack up against him. He now has all his Sunni gulf neighbors who don’t like him flying planes all over his country. I imagine the Saudi’s would not shed a tear if a bomb “accidently” fell on the Presidential Palace. Not someone who you would say has his country under control.

      • I like your characterization of Assad as the only viable genocidal option who is not religious.

        Personally, though, I think the world community should be looking for a non-genocidal option.

    • I agree that in the short term the US strikes are beneficial to Assad. Specifically, attacks on ISIS around Palmyra and Deir Ezzor are very helpful to Assad.

      I’m confused by the Nusra airstrikes. The official position is that the US attacked Khorasan group which broke away from Nusra from what I read. I have no problem with taking out Khorasan as they appeared to be set on attacking the West. However, Nusra is a group that is popular with the people in areas they operate. Were the airstrikes on Nusra (non Khorasan groups) as well? If the US is attacking Nusra then Nusra would be wise to break ties with Al-Qaeda as they’ll be pretty much done with a few more of those precision US airstrikes.

      I do think the Kurds might benefit a lot from these early airstrikes as well. While the Kurds are currently on the retreat in Kobane they are on the offensive in Hasakah province. The strikes in Hasakah province should take some pressure off of Kobane. Early US strikes are always on fixed positions (buildings, command centers, etc.). The Kurds in Kobane will get direct help soon.

        • yeah i also read that this khorasan group that we havent heard off is actually JaN, but they are afraid to call it by name, because it has great support of Sunnis on the ground, them being Al Qaeda 😀

      • @ james

        Was Nusra too. This is bad because Nusra remains one of the very few capable forces on rebel side. This might bring more to defect to IS or turn Nusra against rebels. Idlib already saw few weeks ago infighting between Nusra and FSA. This is all going to well for Assad and i predicted this scenario months ago. I really hope US plans are more than just this.

  8. Ahrar al-Sham also hit by US airstrikes, seems the US has decided to bring down IS and you need to stop the war in Syria to do that.

    Bravo Assad, its been a long road but you made it home.

      • main buzzfeed contributor on the IS issue, a bit better than red tornadoes, seeing how he hasnt been on today, i am scared that a US missile got him last night

      • Ahrar is definitely unconfirmed from what I see. I’d quit spreading this rumor around as it won’t look good on you when it’s shown to not be true.

        btw – Unconfirmed rebel sources are saying that Nassib border crossing was taken so I don’t think you should believe all this unconfirmed stuff from any source just yet. It is in Assad’s interest to spread this news. Also, the only Nusra confirmed hits are against Khorasan group. Indications are that they were planning an attack on the west so no problem with me if the US blows them up.

        • Khorasan is Nusra James.
          The US just doesnt want to say it directly as they finance and arm direct nusra allies.

          Khorasan group was invented when, a month ago?

          • OK I’d never heard of khorasan.. Khorasan is Nusra. I agree. Let’s wait and see if the coalition strikes go after Nusra full scale or if the strikes are limited to this cell in Nusra. I don’t think they will go after Nusra full scale.

            • @james

              I dunno if you followed the whole news in the last days. But US officials two days ago when asked in general if the US was under an incombent terror threat at home their answer was no. I have some difficulty in beliving this version. Khorosan is a really small group and i doubt they have the capabilities of organizing a major terror threat on US soil. I am guessing Obama is going after the most radical groups not only IS especially the ones enlisting foreign fighters. Khorosan is basically Nusra.
              De facto like this the US is acting as an airforce for both rebels and Assad. But the real big advantage is all on Assad side for now.

              • @caligola

                I’ve been following the news. Since Khorosan is a really small group it won’t hurt the rebels too much if they are taken out. If Nusra is attacked full scale by strikes then the effect is significant.

                The benefit to the regime depends on where the airstrikes occur. Since most airstrikes were in the rear IS bases so far we really don’t know yet.


                So you are saying it’s wrong to take out this Nusra group who were actively planning/assisting with attacks on airliners? I’d say they were a terror threat on US soil if they were to create an explosive they could smuggle on a plane. I agree with the US on taking out this small group before they had a chance to execute their strike. From the looks of it they took out the leader and now the US should concentrate the fight on ISIS.

  9. US General Mayville from the press conference live from the Pentagon on CNN just now was asked from a journalist if these strikes are not helping Assad’s regime. He is reply was pretty embaraced, you could clearly see that he dident want to answer. But he stated again that the US intervention is against IS only. Asked about the news leaked to Jaafari about the incoming attacks he confirmed it and said that SAA radar positions last night were on passive mode.
    Assad you lucky bastard……..

  10. those moderate rebel savages this site and a lot of people on it support, are already protesting US strikes on JaN, the moderate rebels, the ones that will take over and make everything fine, are angry because al qaeda is getting bombed.

    Could it be that they are angry because they arent soo moderate, but much more al qaeda?

    protests in north Aleppo

  11. dozens of civilians reportedly killed in the US coalition airstrikes, reported by the same guys you quote every day.

    Kinda think they arent gonna be viable sources anymore 😀

  12. The picture shown here: “UPDATE 1550 GMT: The Pentagon’s before-and-after pictures of the Finance Ministry in Raqqa, hit by one of the Tomahawk missiles:”

    The after picture only shows damage in one corner. Doesn’t look bad all from the outside. Any ideas on how the inside looks?

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