World

Russia bombs Syria targets for 2nd day, including U.S.-backed rebels

Russian jets carry out a second day of strikes in Syria, and some activists claim that the targets included rebels backed by the United States.

Russian officials acknowledge that non-ISIS groups are being targeted as well

Russia defends Syria airstrikes

7 years ago
Duration 3:38
Some activists claim targets include rebels backed by the U.S. coalition

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  • Putin denies reports that civilians were killed in any Russian airstrikes

Russian jets carried out a second day of strikes in Syria Thursday, and some activists claimed that the targets included rebels backed by the United States.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied reports that civilians were killed in any Russian airstrikes.

"We are ready for such information attacks," he said in a live broadcast from the Kremlin. "The first reports of civilian casualties came even before our jets took off."

Russian Defence Ministry Igor Konashenkov said in televised comments that Russian aircraft damaged or destroyed 12 targets in Syria belonging to the Islamic State group including a command centre and two ammunition depots.

Officials acknowledged, however, that other unidentified groups were being targeted as well.

Konashenkov said Russian Su-25M and Su-25 jets made 20 sorties between Wednesday and Thursday morning, and he insisted that civilian areas were not targeted.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said airstrikes in the central province of Hama on Thursday hit locations of the U.S-backed rebel group, Tajamu Alezzah. The British group said Tajamu Alezzah was also targeted on Wednesday.

This aerial shot is from footage taken from Russia's defence ministry website Thursday. It is said to show a bomb explosion in Syria. Reacting to criticism that it is targeting opponents of the Syrian government, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin admitted that airstrikes in Syria are targeting not only Islamic State militants but also other groups. (Associated Press)

Russia's air campaign in support of Syrian government forces began Wednesday in what Putin called a pre-emptive strike against the militants.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia was going after IS militants as well as a "list" of other groups.

"These organizations are well known and the targets are chosen in co-ordination with the armed forces of Syria," he said, without giving specific names.

On Wednesday, however, Sergei Ivanov, Putin's chief of staff, said "the operation's target is solely air support for the Syrian government forces in their fight against the ISIS."

Speaking later in the day, Putin said Russia would be fighting "gangs of international terrorists" and then went on to talk about IS.

Same extremists

Asked Thursday whether Putin was satisfied with the way the Russian campaign was going, Peskov said it was "too early" to say.

In Paris, Russian Ambassador Alexander Orlov insisted that Russian warplanes in Syria were hitting at the same extremists targeted by the United States and denied American claims that its military failed to co-ordinate the airstrikes, describing the allegations as a "war of disinformation."

In this image made from video provided by Homs Media Centre, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, smoke rises after airstrikes by military jets in Talbiseh of the Homs province, western Syria, Wednesday. (Associated Press)

Orlov said the targets were installations for Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, "two terrorist organizations recognized as such."

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Russians appeared to have targeted areas that did not include ISIS militants and complained Moscow did not use formal channels to give advance notice of its airstrikes to Washington, which is conducting its own airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State group.

This image taken in Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 posted on the Twitter account of Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets, a volunteer search and rescue group, shows the aftermath of an airstrike in Talbiseh, Syria. (Associated Press)

The U.S. and Russia agree on the need to fight the Islamic State but not about what to do with President Bashar Assad. The Syrian civil war, which grew out of an uprising against Assad, has killed more than 250,000 people since March 2011 and sent millions of refugees fleeing to other countries in the Middle East and Europe.

With American and allied airstrikes daily, and now Russian warplanes in the Syrian airspace, the war is taking on a dangerous new dimension.

4 areas hit

Orlov said Russian officials warned the Americans "via confidential channels" of where they planned to strike. He also noted a co-ordination centre was being set up in Baghdad that would include Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians and Russians — and any other country that wants to participate.

Khaled Khoja, head of the Syrian National Council opposition group, said at the UN that Russian airstrikes in four areas, including Talbiseh, killed 36 civilians, with five children among the dead. The claim could not be independently verified.

Iran's Foreign Ministry said it fully supports Russian airstrikes against "terrorist groups" in Syria.

The ministry's spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, said the "Islamic Republic of Iran considers military action by Russia against armed terrorist groups to be a step toward fighting terrorism and toward resolving the current crisis" in Syria.

Her statement was carried by the official IRNA news agency.

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