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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Russia launches first airstrikes in Syria: US

Iran Press TV

Wed Sep 30, 2015 1:29PM

Russia has carried out its first airstrikes in Syria after Washington reportedly refused to comply with Moscow's demand to take US warplanes out of the Arab country, a senior American official says.

Moscow carried out the mission on Wednesday near the city of Homs, CNN reported quoting the senior unmanned official.

The airstrikes came shortly after Moscow asked the United States to halt its military attacks in Syria because Russian fighter jets were now flying over the territory, according to Fox News.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Fox News that Russian diplomats sent an official demarche ordering US planes out of Syria.

Another senior unnamed US military official, however, said, 'There is nothing to indicate that we are changing operations over Syria.'

'We have had every indication in recent weeks that (the Russians) were going to do something given the build-up,' said the defense official.

Earlier on Wednesday, the upper house of the Russian parliament gave President Vladimir Putin approval to use the air force in Syria.

US officials said Russia moved warplanes to a base near the coastal city of Latakia earlier this month. Russia has also stationed T-90 tanks there, and has increased the number of its military flights to the same airfield.

US officials claimed the Russian warplanes turned off their transponders to avoid detection, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The deployment has raised concerns in Washington that Moscow seeks to establish a military outpost in Syria in support of the government in Damascus.

Russia's commitment to the Syrian government runs counter to current US policy, which calls for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian surveillance drones also began flying over northwestern Syria last week to collect intelligence on potential targets, US officials said.

The drones fly daily missions above Latakia, Hama, and Idlib, according to the intelligence assessment.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. The United States and its regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - have been supporting the militants operating inside Syria since the beginning of the crisis.

As Russia steps up its role in Syria, the Obama administration's strategy has come under scrutiny.

The Pentagon has admitted that a group of US-trained 'moderate' militants in Syria has handed over arms and equipment to an al-Qaeda-linked group in the country.

US Central Command said on Friday night that the items were surrendered to the al-Nusra Front in exchange for safe passage within the region, the Associated Press reported. It said the items amount to 25 percent of the equipment assigned to the group.

Congress approved a $500 million program late last year to "train and equip" more than 5,000 militants to fight in Syria. The scheme, however, has yielded only a handful of militants, US defense officials said.

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