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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia Denies IS Attack at Syrian Base

by VOA News May 24, 2016

A Russian military official has denied claims by the Islamic State group that it destroyed four helicopters and other Russian equipment at a Syrian base.

Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters deployed to Syria "are performing their planned mission to destroy terrorists."

Konashenkov rejected the claim that IS had damaged 20 trucks and helicopters at the T4 Diyas air base near the town of Palmyra, calling it "propaganda."

But satellite images from the U.S.-based global intelligence company Stratfor show extensive damage at the air base used by Russian forces.

"We have no reason to believe that the incident at an airfield operated by Russian forces was the result of an ISIL attack," a U.S. official told VOA, using an acronym for Islamic State.

Konashenkov said the satellite images of the base show damaged helicopters and trucks from conflicts that took place in the same area between Syrian government forces and rebels.

'Ordnance impact points'

Stratfor reported that "ordnance impact points are visible" in the images and a Syrian MiG-25 fighter jet appeared to have been damaged.

On May 11, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported shelling at the T4 base after jihadists briefly took control of a route between the cities of Palmyra and Homs.

Though the Islamic State declined to cut off the road for any extended amount of time, it did move artillery within range of the base, which it subsequently shelled," Stratfor said in its analysis.

The report also said "the attack, and considerable losses on the Russian side, stresses the continued threat to supply lines for Russian and regime forces, despite their victory in Palmyra."

An IS-affiliated news agency said Russian equipment had been destroyed at the T4 base, but according to AFP, the agency did not provide further details.

The five-year-old civil war has killed more than 270,000 people and driven millions of Syrian residents from their homes.

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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