IS claims five Russian troops killed near Syria’s Palmyra

  • AFP, Beirut
  • Updated: Mar 18, 2016 19:08 IST
Russian air force personnel prepare to load humanitarian cargo on board a Syrian Il-76 plane at Hemeimeem air base in Syria. IS has claimed they have killed five Russian soldiers near Palmyra. (AP Photot)

The Islamic State jihadist group has claimed that it has killed five Russian troops near the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

“The soldiers of the caliphate, by the grace of God, have killed five Russian soldiers and six members” of the Syrian army, IS said in a statement.

The group also claimed the killing of several members of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group in the clashes near Palmyra.

A website linked to IS, Aamaq, carried a similar claim, adding that one of the Russians killed was a military advisor.

“The fierce battles around Palmyra city in the east of Homs province left five Russian soldiers dead on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as several others from the Hezbollah militia and Afghan Shiite militias,” Aamaq claimed.

“Four of the Russian soldiers were killed in Qasr al-Halabat west of Palmyra during an attempt to storm the area that IS forces foiled, while the advisor whose corpse was shown in a video distributed by the agency died (Thursday) in the Dawa area,” it added.

Aamaq was referring to a video showing the bloodied corpse of a man in military gear that it claimed was the advisor.

The footage also shows equipment presumably captured after the clashes, including a customised AK-74M rifle, a helmet and a compass.

A packet of bandages was filmed with instructions written in Russian.

This undated photo released Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, file photo, on a social media site used by Islamic State militants, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows smoke from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baalshamin in Syria's ancient caravan city of Palmyra. (AP Photo)

IS seized Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in eastern Syria known as the “Pearl of the Desert”, last May, sending shock waves across the world.

Nearly 1,800 civilians killed

Speaking to AFP, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman said “at least one” Russian soldier was killed in recent days around Palmyra.

President Vladimir Putin, Assad’s main backer, on Monday ordered the withdrawal of most of Russia’s armed forces from Syria.

The Russian air force has however continued to strike jihadist targets since the surprise announcement, particularly around Palmyra.

At a press briefing on Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not confirm either the presence of Russian advisors around Palmyra or the IS claim of the soldiers’ killing.

“The advance (on Palmyra) is carried out by contingents of the Syrian army,” Peskov said.

On Thursday, however, Putin had warned that Russia would remain engaged in Syria’s war.

“Our uncompromising attitude to terrorism remains unchanged,” he said, adding that “fierce fighting” was raging near Palmyra.

Putin also named four Russians, including a military advisor, killed in action in Syria since Moscow launched its military intervention on September 30.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at a ceremony to present state awards to Russian military personnel who fought in Syria at the Kremlin in Moscow, on March 17, 2016. Russia has been accused by a prominent Syrian human rights body of killing Syrian civilians “on a daily continuous basis.” (AFP Photo)

Previously, the defence ministry’s official toll had been three, excluding a soldier who reportedly committed suicide.

A total of 1,799 Syrian civilians including 431 children have been killed in Russian air strikes, according to an updated toll by the Observatory.

Another 1,276 IS members have also died, as have 1,567 rebels and fighters from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, it added.

The Observatory accused Russia, a permanent UN Security Council member, of being “a key accomplice in the killing of Syrian civilians, on a daily, continuous basis, using the fight against IS as an excuse”.

Moscow has denied claims of hitting civilian and non-jihadist rebel targets.

also read

At least 19 dead in Russian helicopter crash in Siberia
Show comments