Russia hits Islamic State targets in overnight strikes, Moscow claims

Russian forces accused by West of attacking almost every opposition group other than IS

Russian president Vladimir Putin and French president Francois Hollande at the start of a summit on Ukraine in Paris on Friday. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/Pool.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and French president Francois Hollande at the start of a summit on Ukraine in Paris on Friday. Photograph: Etienne Laurent/Pool.

 

The Russian defence ministry said on Friday that it had bombed seven targets in Syria in overnight air raids, including a command post and a training camp near the northwestern city of Raqqa. This would be the first strike in an area widely recognised as being under the control of Islamic State (IS).

The US and other nations that back groups fighting president Bashar al-Assad have accused Russian forces of targeting almost every opposition group but IS in the air strikes that began Wednesday.

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Their view was summarily rejected later at the United Nations by the foreign minister of Syria, Walid al-Moallem.

Delivering his nation’s speech at the annual General Assembly, Mr Moallem thanked the Russians for coming to the aid of the Syrian military with air strikes and asserted they were part of its effort to combat terrorism.

The foreign minister castigated the alliance of western and Arab states for what he called their failure to stop the flow of foreign jihadists into Syria. He blamed the alliance for creating the crisis now engulfing the country. “Our vision proved to be correct,” Mr Moallem said.

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Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, said the camp was near Maaden Jedid and the command post was near Kasert-Faraj, both southwest of Raqqa.

Raqqa has emerged as the capital of the patchwork of territory that Islamic State controls across northern Syria.

In Raqqa, authorities announced that they were cancelling Friday prayer in the mosques as a safety measure.

The Russians also reportedly hit Qaratayn, south of Homs, according to Mayadeen TV, a Lebanese channel close to the Damascus government.

IS forces captured the town recently, pushing out from the desert city of Palmyra toward Damascus, and they are still holding some Assyrian Christian hostages from there.

The other four areas Syrian state television reported had been hit by Russian forces were in parts of the country known to be controlled by rebel groups other than Islamic State. – (New York Times service)