Russia says hit 1,623 targets in Syria in bombing campaign

The Russian military has claimed its strikes have caused panic and mass desertion among the militant ranks

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Russia on Friday said its airforce had destroyed 1,623 “terrorist targets” in Syria in a month-old bombing campaign to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

“Overall our planes made 1,391 sorties, destroying 1,623 terrorist targets,” including 51 training camps and 131 storage facilities, Andrei Kartapolov, a senior defence ministry official, said in televised comments.

Kartapolov added that 249 communication and command posts, 35 car bomb workshops, 371 fortified positions and 786 field camps and bases were also destroyed.

Russia has carried out strikes since September 30, publishing nearly daily information about the campaign it says targets primarily Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadists.

The U.S. and its allies -- which are carrying out a separate bombing campaign -- says Moscow has however concentrated on other groups which oppose both IS and Assad.

The Russian military has claimed its strikes have caused panic and mass desertion among the terrorist ranks, but the Syrian army’s ground offensive has seen mixed results as it lost ground after capturing several towns earlier this month.

“It is premature to talk about complete victory over the terrorists in Syria,” Kartapolov said.

“Despite considerable losses and mass desertion, militants continue to resist government forces in several areas. However all of their attempts to counter-attack have been thwarted.”

The defence ministry nonetheless said that ground offensives by the Syrian army in the Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Homs provinces had led government forces to recapture some 350 square kilometres (135 square miles) of territory in the last three weeks.

The village of Sneisil in the Homs region was among the areas recaptured by the government, the Russian defence ministry said, adding that there was intense fighting for control of Salma, a village in the northwestern province of Latakia.

Kartapolov also claimed that militants with Al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front and Islamic State group, who have been fighting each other for months, have “joined forces” in Hama province.

The latest bombing claims come as Russia’s foreign minister is meeting with his counterparts from 17 other countries involved in the Syria conflict -- including the U.S. and Iran -- in the broadest diplomatic push yet to find a solution to the crisis.