Russia says ISIS militants have begun to retreat under barrage of air strikes

An explosion is seen after an airstrike at what Russia says is an ISIS facility in Idlib province in Syria, in an image taken the Russian Defence Ministry's official website.
An explosion is seen after an airstrike at what Russia says is an ISIS facility in Idlib province in Syria, in an image taken the Russian Defence Ministry's official website. PHOTO: AFP/RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY

MOSCOW (XINHUA) - Russia's Defence Ministry said on Thursday (Oct 15) that militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have begun to retreat in Syria after more than two weeks of its air strikes in the war-torn country.

"The militants are retreating, trying to build up new positions and changing rapidly the scheme of ammunition, weaponry and material supplies," the ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, Russian aircraft stationed in Syria made 33 sorties against 32 ISIS facilities in the last 24 hours, destroying a command post, a landmine assembling factory and a surface-to-air missile system.

Other targets destroyed by Russia's latest operations include an artillery position with six guns, four mortars and varied munitions, as well as a garage with three armoured vehicles and six jeeps equipped with heavy machine guns and mortars, the statement said.

Russian airstrikes have become less severe than in the previous days due to active offensive actions of the Syrian army on the ground. Meanwhile, Moscow has intensified reconnaissance flights, including manned aircraft and drones, the ministry said.

The collected data was being processed and analysed with intelligence coming from the information centre in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad jointly set up by Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

On Wednesday (Oct 14), Russian and Israeli pilots started joint exercises aimed at guaranteeing flight safety in Syria, with a hotline being established between the Hmeimim airbase in Syria, where the Russian air force is located, and an Israeli air force command post, the ministry said.

Also on Wednesday (Oct 14), representatives of the Russian and US militaries held a round of negotiations over a possible agreement on flight safety over Syria by Russian aircraft and aircraft of the US-led coalition.

"Key provisions of a future document have been discussed," the ministry said, adding that the parties have agreed on a procedure for further actions.

The Russian air force began its air campaign in Syria on Sept 30 following a request from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Kremlin said the air raids have significantly diminished the combat capability of ISIS.