MOSCOW, October 20. /TASS/. The US Department of State has for the first time confirmed that terrorists active in the Syrian province of Idlib not only have but also use chemical weapons, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Friday.
While commenting on a statement issued by the US Department of State, he said that the document "provides details about a terror group named Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra [a terror group outlawed in Russia - TASS], which is active in this province and uses light and heavy weapons, improvised explosive devices and chemical weapons." "I would like to point out that that the Department of State has for the first time officially acknowledged that terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra not only have but also - I would like to stress that - use chemical weapons in this part of Syria in order to carry out terrorist attacks - a thing that we have many times many times warned against and talked about at various levels," Konashenkov said.
The Russian general pointed out that only one chemical weapons incident had been recorded in the Idlib province, which took place in Khan Shaykhun and was blamed on the Syrian government forces by the US. "While the militants who actually carried out that attack turned out to be members of Jabhat al-Nusra - as the US Department of State eventually figured out - but were previously called the ‘moderate opposition’," Konashenkov said.
"But now, the US State Department’s statement has put everything in place - the Jabhat al-Nusra terror group, affiliated with Al-Qaeda [outlawed in Russia - TASS], which is active in Idlib, not only has but also uses chemical weapons against civilians," he stressed.
In this connection, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman commented on the US cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase, which the US had carried out citing the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government forces in Khan Shaykhun. "It is still unclear why Washington needed to use expensive Tomahawk missiles to attack Syria’s Shayrat airbase. They could have made better use of those millions of dollars by delivering strikes on the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists," Konashenkov noted.
The US allegations about an Idlib bombing are untrue as Russia’s Aerospace Forces never target populated localities, he stressed.
The US Department of State said earlier that Russian and Syrian aircraft continued to deliver airstrikes in the Idlib province, which had already resulted in numerous victims among civilians and medical personnel.
"As for the alleged Idlib bombing by Russian aircraft, the [US] Department of State has been misled, to put it mildly, while US citizens have nothing to fear," he said. "Russian warplanes active in Syria never target populated localities, unlike the US-led coalition, which has achieved a victory in Raqqa by just wiping the city from the face of the earth," the Russian general added.
On October 17, the US military said that about 90% of the Syrian city of Raqqa had been retaken from militants of the Islamic State terror group (IS, outlawed in Russia). At the same time, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that according to the United Nations, as a result of military activities, most part of Raqqa had been either damaged or destroyed, while the UN personnel could not achieve access to the city in order to assess the situation and deliver humanitarian aid.