Russian Jets in Syria Destroy Weapons Cache of U.S.-trained Rebels
Russian airstrikes hit the main arms depot of a U.S.-backed opposition group in Syria, the group’s commander told Reuters on Wednesday, as Moscow widened the scope of its aerial campaign against rebel groups calling for President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster.
Fighters from the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal group, who have been given military training by the CIA in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were also hit last week, soon after Russia began its bombing campaign.
Hassan Haj Ali, the group’s commander, told Reuters he believes his brigade was targeted because “it was one of the bigger and stronger factions fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.”
Russian Navy Launches Cruise Missiles at Syria
Russian warships stationed in the Caspian Sea fired cruise missiles into Syria Wednesday, as troops loyal to Assad began a ground offensive throughout the center of the war-torn country, the Associated Press reports.
After traveling nearly 930 miles over Iran and Iraq, the missiles hit Aleppo and Raqqa provinces in the country’s north and Idlib province in the northwest, providing massive air support for Assad and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s first combined air-and-ground assault since Moscow officially entered the fray last week.
While Russian jets and cruise missiles provided support from above, Syrian government troops recaptured areas in the provinces of Idlib and Hama, according to an anonymous Syrian official and activists, in what the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has called “the most intense fighting in months.”
Fighters loyal to the self-proclaimed Islamic State are not present where ground fighting is taking place.
U.S. Officials Say Russian Airstrikes Have Not Targeted ISIS
The U.S. Department of State said on Wednesday that more than 90 percent of Russia’s airstrikes in Syria have not targeted areas controlled by the Islamic State group or jihadists connected to al-Qaida.
Spokesperson John Kirby told the Guardian that most of the strikes have been aimed at moderate Syrian opposition forces. “They’ve [Russia’s airstrikes] been largely against opposition groups that want a better future for Syria and don’t want to see the Assad regime stay in power,” he said.
The State Department’s accusation Wednesday marked the first time U.S. officials have released any specific statistics on the impact of Russia’s air campaign in Syria since it began last week.
Top Image: In this photo, made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, a Russian navy ship launches a cruise missile in the Caspian Sea. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said four Russian navy ships in the Caspian launched 26 cruise missiles at Islamic State targets in Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
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