Russia likens US coalition bombing of Raqqa to WWII Dresden

A part of downtown Raqqa after it was liberated from the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria on Oct 17, 2017.
A part of downtown Raqqa after it was liberated from the Islamic State militants, in Raqqa, Syria on Oct 17, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia on Sunday (Oct 22) accused the US-led coalition in Syria of having flattened Raqqa with a Dresden-like bombing campaign and masking the destruction with a rush of humanitarian aid.

In a statement, the defence ministry said that Raqqa - the capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group's self-proclaimed caliphate - "inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945, razed to the ground by Anglo-American bombings".

US-backed Kurdish-led forces last week recaptured Raqqa, the capital of ISIS' self-proclaimed caliphate and its last major stronghold in Syria.

US officials hailed the event, led by President Donald Trump who said "the end of the ISIS caliphate is in sight".

"The bravura statements by official representatives of the US administration about the 'outstanding victory' over ISIS in Raqqa prompt bafflement," the Russian ministry said.

The US is overplaying the strategic significance of the fall of Raqqa, it charged.

In reality, Raqqa is a "provincial city" that is much smaller than Deir Ezzor, where a Russian-backed Syrian regime operation is underway, the ministry said.

It accused Western countries of pumping aid into Raqqa to mask the degree of destruction inflicted on the city.

Moscow, it said, had previously received only refusals from the West to its requests for international humanitarian aid.

"There is only one (reason) - the aim is to sweep away traces of barbaric bombings by US aviation and the 'coalition' that buried in Raqqa's ruins thousands of peaceful citizens 'liberated' from the ISIS," the ministry claimed.

Russia has been operating a bombing campaign in Syria since 2015, when it stepped in to support President Bashar al-Assad's rule and tipped the conflict in his favour. Human rights monitors say that the raids have resulted in many civilian casualties.