US trains dozens of Syrians in new push against ISIS

The US military had started training ‘dozens’ of Syrian opposition fighters to battle ISIS as part of a revamped program

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The US military said on Friday it had started training “dozens” of Syrian opposition fighters to battle ISIS as part of a revamped program that aims to avoid mistakes that doomed its first training effort in Turkey last year.

US Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the US-led coalition battling ISIS, told Pentagon reporters that no Syrian fighters had graduated yet from the new program.

In a related story, the death toll from airstrikes in the Deir al-Asafir district southeast of Damascus has risen to more than 30, mostly women and children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmet civil defence group.

The strikes on Thursday, which the Observatory monitoring group said were carried out by Syrian aircraft, came despite a month-long “cessation of hostilities” in Syria between government forces and their opponents, excluding ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

The strikes were condemned both by the US and France.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday signalled that the Kremlin's position on President Bashar al-Assad had not changed, saying that his fate must be decided only by people of Syria, including in free and democratic elections.

Another Russian government source said on Friday it hoped the Syrian government delegation would show flexibility at peace talks with the opposition.

(With Reuters, AFP)

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