1 Oct 2015

Russia ‘targets CIA-trained militants’ in Syria

Russian air strikes in Syria are targeting Free Syrian Army recruits trained by the CIA, US Senator senate John McCain has said.

Speaking to CNN about the Russian-led air strikes in Syria, Mr McCain said: “I can absolutely confirm to you that they were strikes against our Free Syrian Army recruits that have been armed and trained by the CIA because we have communications with people there.”

He claims Russian forces targeted the US-backed rebel group, who are opponents of Russian ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hassan Haj Ali, head of the Liwa Suqour al-Jabal rebel group told Reuters that two Russian air strikes hit the group’s training camp in Idlib province. He said the rebel group received military training from the CIA in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“Russia is challenging everyone and saying there is no alternative to Bashar,” Haj Ali said. He said the Russian jets had been identified by members of his group who once served as Syrian air force pilots.

Russia launched a series of air strikes in the Homs and Hama provinces on Wednesday, claiming they were targeting Islamic State (IS) militants.

Russia said it launched eight air strikes overnight, hitting four IS targets. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that more than 30 civilians were killed, including women and children.

The US and other western allies have raised concerns that Russia hit areas which were not held by IS rebels and are not targeting the militants.

New reports have emerged suggesting that hundreds of Iranian forces arrived in Syria 10 days ago with weapons to take part in a group operation in conjunction with Russia.

Now, in a second day of air strikes, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he plans to coordinate his actions in Syria with the US.

Despite this, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it does not intend joining a US-led coalition in the fight against IS militants. It would however, consider a request from Iraq to conduct air strikes against IS inside Iraq.