MOSCOW, Nov 15, (RTRS): Six Russian long-range bombers struck Islamic State targets near the town of Albu Kamal in Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province on Wednesday, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement. The TU-22M3 bombers took off from bases in Russia and overflew Iran and Iraq before launching the strike, it said.
The ministry said the planes had bombed Islamic State supply depots, militants, and armoured vehicles and that satellite and drone surveillance had confirmed that all of the designated targets had been destroyed.
It said Sukhoi-30SM fighter jets, based at the Hmeymim air base in Syria used by Russian forces, had escorted the bombers while they were in Syrian air space and that all the bombers had safely returned to their bases. Russia on Tuesday accused the United States of providing de-facto cover for Islamic State units in Syria and of only pretending to fight terrorism in the Middle East
Specifically, the Russian Defence Ministry said the US air force had tried to hinder Russian strikes on Islamic State militants around Albu Kamal. Asked about the Russian allegations, Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said: “The Russian ministry of defence statements are about as accurate as their air campaign and I think that is a reason for them to start, you know, coming out with their latest barrage of lies.”
Syrian Kurdish leaders voiced support on Wednesday for a longer-term role for US forces in Syria once Islamic State is defeated, after the United States signalled it would not pull out before there was progress towards a political solution. Comments by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Monday have drawn heavy criticism from the Iran-backed Syrian government, which says Washington is making up a new excuse for keeping its “illegal occupation” forces in Syria.
Limiting Iranian influence in Syria and Iraq is a key US aim. Syrian Kurdish groups have emerged as the main partner on the ground for the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in northern and eastern Syria, areas which the Syrian state and Iran have vowed to take back. Kurdish fighters, with Arab allies, US advisers and coalition jets, have driven Islamic State from swathes of territory including their former headquarters in Raqqa city. The Kurdish YPG militia and its political allies have carved out autonomous cantons in the north, and now control nearly a quarter of Syria. Their influence angers neighbour Turkey, which considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has fought a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.