Moscow says Russian airstrikes killed top IS commanders in Syria



BEIRUT, Weedah Hamzah (dpa) - Four leading Islamic State militants are dead after Russian airstrikes hit Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, officials in Moscow said Friday.
The Russian Defence Ministry said 40 Islamic State fighters were killed in total, including Mohammed al-Shimali, who was responsible for finding new recruits, and Gulmurod Khalimov, whom the Russian military described as "Islamic State's war minister," the Interfax news agency reported.



Khalimov was a former member of the Tajik police special forces who had received anti-terrorist training in the US before going underground and joining Islamic State in 2015, according to Interfax.
The US had offered a 3-million-dollar reward for information on Khalimov's whereabouts.
The ministry did not say when the airstrikes had been carried out.
Russia is a key military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting rebels seeking to oust him since 2011.
On Tuesday, al-Assad's forces said they ended a nearly three-year Islamic State siege on Deir al-Zour.
Russian and Syrian warplanes intensified bombardments on areas west of Deir al-Zour on Friday, a monitoring group reported.
The strikes targeted a road linking Deir al-Zour to the town of Sukhna in the central province of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights added.
"The raids are paving the way for the Syrian forces and their allies to move deeper into the areas west of Deir al-Zour," Observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman told dpa.
Syrian forces have been advancing on the city of Deir al-Zour for several weeks.
Most of Deir al-Zour province has been controlled by Islamic state since 2014. The province borders Iraq and provides a link between Iraq and al-Raqqa, which is seen as the de facto capital of the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Red Crescent managed to reach the government-controlled side of Deir al-Zour for the first time in three years, carrying food and medical aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"Some 42 trucks bringing food, hygiene kits and medicines for 80,000 people" reached the area, Ingy Sedky,ICRC spokeswoman in Syria told dpa.
In January 2016, Russian planes dropped 22 tons of humanitarian supplies on the besieged government-held areas of Deir al-Zour.
Late Friday, Damascus rejected accusations made in a UN report that suggested the Syrian government was responsible for the Sarin April attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhon that killed at least 83 civilians.
Syria's permanent UN representative in Geneva, Ambassador Hussam Ala, wrote in a letter to the President of Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that "Syria never used and will never use toxic gases against its people because it does not possess them in the first place," the SANA state-run news agency reported.
The letter reportedly added that Syria considers using chemical weapons "a moral crime that can only be condemned."
Ala called on the UNHRC to terminate the mission of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
"The Commission has been issuing reports and statements based on political accusations, not legal analysis, and its members kept making media statements that are far from being neutral or professional," the letter said, according to SANA.
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Saturday, September 9th 2017
Weedah Hamzah
           


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