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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis gestures during a press briefing on the campaign to defeat ISIS at the Pentagon in Washington, U.S., May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday the U.S.-led coalition was now encircling Islamic State fighters in their strongholds in a tactical shift before starting a military campaign to destroy them.

Also speaking at the Pentagon on Friday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, said strikes against Syrian government-backed fighters this week were a "force protection measure," and would not happen again if U.S. forces are not threatened.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; writing by Yara Bayoumy, editing by G Crosse)

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