Russian forces begin airstrikes in Syria

Updated: 2015-10-01 07:24

By Agencies(China Daily)

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Russia on Wednesday carried out its first airstrike in Syria, near the city of Homs, a US defense official said, marking the formal start of Moscow's military intervention in the 4.5-year-old conflict.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the defense official said a Russian general working out of an intelligence center in Baghdad had walked over to the US embassy and given a verbal communique of the impending strike.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday told the Pentagon to "open lines of communication" with Russia about military activity in Syria, where the US-led coalition is carrying out regular air attacks against the Islamic State group.

The strike came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin won unanimous support from parliament to carry out strikes in Syria.

After the Russian president, who has sent warplanes and tanks to support Assad, called for a new anti-Islamic State coalition, UN diplomats pursued new ways to build a solid front against the militants.

Ideas suggested on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York included using the model of a small group of world powers that succeeded in negotiating the July 14 Iran nuclear deal, and breathing new life into a virtually moribund UN peace mechanism.

In Washington, Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump told Fox News he agrees with Putin on his backing of Assad.

"If he wants to fight ISIS, let him fight ISIS," Trump said.

"I say there's very little downside with Putin fighting ISIS," he added.

The US has long insisted that Syria's future cannot include Assad. But Putin has cast Assad's government as the best defense against Islamic State militants, a group the US is also working to defeat.

Trump also suggested that Assad, who has used barrel bombs and chemical weapons against civilians, was preferable to other potential options.

Trump has long predicted that he would get along well with Putin and declared Monday that, "Putin is a nicer person than I am." He repeated his criticism that Putin is the better leader when compared with Obama.

"I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he's getting an 'A' and our president is not doing so well," he said.

A US-led coalition has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria for about a year with a separate coalition with some of the same countries striking the militants in Iraq.

The militants control large areas in both countries, exploiting chaos created in Syria by a civil war that began more than four years ago.

Assad has requested military assistance from Russia in a letter to Putin, Damascus confirmed on Wednesday.

So far, at least 500 Russian troops as well as 28 fighter jets and several bombers and artillery units have been deployed to the base, US officials say.

AFP - Reuters

(China Daily 10/01/2015 page4)