Five killed as Russian military chopper shot down in Syria: Kremlin
REUTERS photoFive people on board a Russian military helicopter were killed Aug. 1, when it was shot down over Syria, in the single deadliest incident for Moscow since it intervened in the Syrian Civil War.
The attack came as Syrian opposition fighters and their jihadist allies battled government forces outside Aleppo in a bid to ease the regime’s siege of rebel-held parts of the northern city.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced the downing of the helicopter, which it said was carrying three crew and two officers, the AFP reported.
“A Russian Mi-8 military transport helicopter was shot down from the ground after delivering humanitarian aid to Aleppo,” the ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies. The helicopter was shot down in Idlib province while returning to the Russian Hemeimeem air base on Syria’s coast after delivering humanitarian goods to the city of Aleppo, the Defense Ministry said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
The Kremlin said all five people on board were assumed dead.
“As far as we know from the information we’ve had from the Defense Ministry, those in the helicopter died, they died heroically, because they were trying to move the aircraft away to minimize victims on the ground,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible.
The incident was the single deadliest attack on Russian forces in Syria since Moscow began its intervention in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government last September.
It brought the total number of members of the Russian forces killed in Syria to 18.
Idlib is held almost entirely by a powerful coalition of Islamist and jihadist forces including the former Al-Nusra Front, now known as the Fateh al-Sham Front after renouncing its status as al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
In neighboring Aleppo province, the Fateh al-Sham Front and allied Islamist rebel groups were fighting fierce battles on Aug. 1 against regime troops on the outskirts of Aleppo city.
The clashes were part of an assault launched one day before an attempt to ease a government siege of the rebel-held east of the city.
The heavy clashes left dozens dead on both sides, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving a specific toll.
‘70 pct of Manbij under control’
Meanwhile, U.S.-backed forces have now seized control of almost 70 percent of Manbij in northern Syria from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after making rapid advances over the past two days, a spokesman for the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), Sharfan Darwish, told Reuters.
“They [ISILI fighters] are now mainly in the old quarter of the city and parts of the northeastern part of the city,” Darwish added.
As the fighting continue, U.N. deputy Syria envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy on July 31 invited Damascus to new peace talks with the opposition at the end of August, drawing a positive response from the government.
On July 26, the world body’s special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters in Geneva he wanted “to proceed with a third round of intra-Syrian talks towards the end of August” after two previous rounds of talks this year ended in failure.
“I informed the minister and his deputy of the intention of the special envoy De Mistura to reconvene the inter-Syrian talks towards the end of August,” Ramzy said after meeting Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and his deputy Faisal Muqdad, according to AFP.
“I explained to the minister how we intend to proceed, and we discussed how to render this process of political transition which has already been endorsed by the Security Council to be a credible one, and we exchanged views on that,” Ramzy said.
He said Muallem “confirmed the intention of the Syrian government to participate in these talks once they are held.”