Russia’s military said Thursday that its mission to oust the Islamic State group in Syria had been accomplished and that the country was “completely liberated” from the group.
“The Russian armed forces’ goal to defeat armed groups of the ISIL terrorist organization in Syria has been accomplished,” Sergei Rudskoi, in charge of the general staff’s main operations department, told reporters, using an alternative acronym for the group.
“There is not a single village or district in Syria under the control of ISIL. The territory of Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organization,” Rudskoi said.
He added that the IS defeat was made possible by “unprecedented” actions by Russia’s air force and special forces in the country.
“The final stage of the defeat of the terrorists was accompanied by the unprecedented deployment of Russia’s air force,” Rudskoi said.
He said that in coordination with the air force, which conducted 100 sorties and staged up to 250 strikes daily, the Russian special forces were able to eliminate a number of the “most odious” IS leaders in various places under the group’s control.
Independent organizations, however, disputed the Russian claim that Syria had been “completely liberated” from IS.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that IS still controlled about 3 percent of the Syrian territory.
IS still has a presence in the Yarmouk Camp neighborhood near Damascus, according to the rights group. The militants also dwell in the eastern countryside of central Homs province and in the northeastern countryside of Hama province in a number of villages.
The rights group said IS fighters existed in eastern Deir el-Zour province, as well.
The Russian general said Russian forces in Syria now would be focused on restoring peace in the war-torn country.
Moscow began its pro-Syrian regime military campaign in September 2015 and since then, along with Lebanese Hezbollah and Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, it has helped the government of President Bashar al-Assad regain strength and territory lost to rebel groups.
Russia’s involvement in the Syrian war has been seen by the international community as controversial. Russian forces have been accused of targeting moderate opposition groups that fight to oust Assad.
Analysts say Moscow is attempting to “reinvent” its Syrian intervention as if it had been about fighting IS rather than about propping up Assad.
Source: Voice of America