Two Russian pilots killed in helicopter downing near Syria's Palmyra
MOSCOWTwo Russian pilots died near the Syrian city of Palmyra when their helicopter was shot down by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, bringing the total number of Russian troops killed in the Syrian conflict to 12, Moscow said.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a Syrian helicopter, Mi-25 helicopter, flown by Riafagat Khabibulin and Yevgeni Dolgin “came under fire” from ISIL on July 9 and crashed, after they ran out of ammunition.
“The turning helicopter was hit by militants’ gunfire from the ground and crashed in the area controlled by the Syrian government army. The crew died,” the statement said.
The jihadist group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to SITE monitoring group.
SITE quoted an ISIL statement as saying: “Soldiers of the Caliphate downed a Russian assault helicopter when it attempted to attack their positions. This resulted in its destruction and killed those who were on board.”
Video footage published on July 9 by ISIL’s affiliated news agency Amaq showed a helicopter being shot and crashing to the ground against cries of “It’s fallen, God is greatest,” according to Reuters.
Russian forces entered the conflict in September 2015, backing the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, the Syrian military has extended a nationwide ceasefire that expired on July 8 for another 72 hours, state media reported on July 9.
The military high command said in a statement “a regime of calm will be extended for a period of 72 hours from one o’clock on July 9.”
Syrian regime forces have repelled a fierce assault by opposition fighters seeking to reopen their only supply route into Aleppo city, killing at least 29 rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said July 10.
The offensive sought to push regime forces back from the Castello Road that leads into the opposition-held eastern half of Aleppo city, which is now effectively besieged by government troops.
The Observatory said 29 fighters from the Islamist Faylaq al-Sham rebel group and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front were killed in fighting or by mines laid by government troops.
The Britain-based monitor said there were also deaths among government troops but had no immediate toll.
“The attack has ended and the road remains completely closed,” said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.