Russia to step up air campaign in Syria

Published October 4th, 2015 - 04:46 GMT
Russia has conducted continuous airstrikes in Syria since September 30, 2015. (Al Bawaba/File)
Russia has conducted continuous airstrikes in Syria since September 30, 2015. (Al Bawaba/File)

On Saturday, Russia vowed to intensify airstrikes in Syria, as Russian forces continue around-the-clock bombing missions for the fourth day.

In a speech on Russia's operations in Syria, Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov claimed Russian bombers have successfully targeted important Islamic State infrastructure, including command centers, as well as explosives and ammunition depots.

"Intelligence says that militants are leaving controlled areas," Kartapolov said. "Panic and desertion started among them. About 600 mercenaries have left their positions and are trying to flee to Europe."

On Friday, President Obama condemned the airstrikes, calling Russia's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "counterproductive."

Obama has invited Russia to the table, calling for a coalition approach to the fight against the Islamic State. But the president suggests Russia's bombs will drive American-backed rebels underground and strengthen IS.

"The problem here is Assad and the brutality he's inflicted on the Syrian people," Obama said. "We are not going to cooperate with a Russian campaign to simply try to destroy anybody who is disgusted and fed up with Mr. Assad's behavior."

But Russia claims its bombs targeted areas that Americans confirmed were occupied exclusively by terrorists.

"American experts informed us that there was nobody but terrorists in the district," Kartapolov said.

He added the Russia has "openly called for sharing all the useful information" on the Islamic State in Syria, but said "today this information is received only from colleagues from Iran, Iraq and Syria."

Russian airstrikes were reportedly conducted in the Homs, Hama and Idlib provinces, as well as in northwest territory held by the Army of Conquest rebel alliance, a group including the al-Nusra Front -- al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.

Kartapolov said "the American military attaché in Iraq for security Colonel Hadi Petro was one of the first to be notified by General Kuralenko" before the airstrikes commenced, and that Americans were warned of the airstrike targets ahead of time, and instructed to get Americans and American-trained forces out of the targeted areas.

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