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'Huge explosions shook the city' : Twitter user breaks news of Raqqa airstrikes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Twitter user Abdulkader Hariri in Raqqa is way ahead of the media as operation starts
  • "Huge explosions shook the city in what might be the beginning of US airstrikes" he tweeted

(CNN) -- They were 31 characters read, and retweeted, around the world.

If any doubts lingered over Twitter's capacity to break news first, the overnight raids launched by U.S. forces on Syria on Tuesday night offered another case study of what the microblogging site does best.

Well before the first media accounts of the attack on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Abdulkader Hariri, a Twitter user in the town, tweeted this:

"Breaking: Huge explosions shook the city in what might be the beginning of US airstrikes on ISIS HQs in Raqqa"

Hariri is believed to be the first person to report on the first strikes the United States carried out against ISIS inside Syria.

He posted his tweet shortly after 9 p.m. -- almost 30 minutes before Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby announced the operation to the world.

"US military & partner nation forces have begun striking ISIL targets in Syria using mix of fighters, bombers and Tomahawk missiles."

In this respect, Hariri's tweet recalls the U.S. raid on Abbottabad in Pakistan in May 2011 in which Osama bin Laden was killed -- and one Twitter user unknowingly reported details.

Some of the first public accounts of the military operation that killed the terrorist leader came in the form of tweets from Sohaib Athar, a 33-year-old IT consultant.

"Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)," the tweet said.

CNN tried to reach Hariri early Wednesday morning, but was unsuccessful. In several subsequent posts, he live-tweeted the operation.

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