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MOSCOW, January 15. /TASS/. One of the main strongholds of Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization in Syria - Salma in the province of Latakia - has been freed with active help from the opposition, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, chief of the main operations department of the Russian General Staff, told reporters on Friday.
"In the north of Latakia province, three settlements were freed with active participation of the Desert Falcons militia, including the main stronghold of militants and capital of mountainous Latakia - the city of Salma," Rudskoy said.
Syrian government forces also took ten settlements in the province of Hama, he added. "Twenty-four armed militants who fought with terrorists have voluntarily surrendered to the government forces in combat near the settlement of Jarjis. Government forces and militias took seven settlements near the Kweires airbase," Rudskoy said.
According to the security official, over 200 settlements were liberated from the Islamic State terrorists since the launch of the Russian operation in Syria.
"In just 100 days of the Russian aerospace force’s operation in Syria, 217 settlements were won back from ISIL and more than 1,000 square kilometers of the territory were liberated," Rudskoy said.
"People are returning to Syrian towns and to resume peaceful life," he added.
Rudskoy also noted that the information about one in five targets the Russian air group in Syria attacks comes from the patriotically minded Syrian opposition.
"Over the past months cooperation has been established with the groups of the patriotically-minded Syrian opposition, who share with the command of the Russian air group the locations of militants’ facilities in the zone of combat operations. The targets are attacked after the information is verified. Currently information about one in five terrorist targets comes from the Syrian opposition," the general said said.
Russia’s air group in Syria has a multi-tier level of intelligence and reconnaissance, which guarantees reliable exposure and elimination of terrorist targets, he said.
"A large amount of information is arriving from the joint coordinating centre in Baghdad and the command of the Syrian government troops," Rudskoy said.
According to the official, over 10,500 members of democratic Syrian opposition are fighting against the Islamic State terrorists alongside the Syrian government troops.
"The democratic Syrian opposition forces that are acting together with the government troops are playing a bigger role in fighting terrorists in Syria. For the moment, the total strength of these (democratic Syrian opposition) units has reached more than 10,500 people," Rudskoy said.
At a briefing held last Monday, January 11, Rudskoy spoke about Russian air support for an offensive launched by 11 opposition detachments whose total strength exceeds 7,000 people. The general said the number of Syrian opposition units ready to join the struggle was on the rise.
"The democratic Syrian opposition forces that are acting together with the government troops are playing a bigger role in fighting terrorists in Syria. For the moment, the total strength of these (democratic Syrian opposition) units has reached more than 10,500 people," the official said.
According to him, the opposition detachments commanded by Aiman Flyat al-Ganim have advanced 8 kilometres in the direction of the IS capital of Raqqa and have liberated four populated localities on their way.
"The Surein and Chelobiya detachments have liberated an area of 60 square kilometres to the east and west of a dam on the Euphrates River in Al-Ahman district from ISIS (the former name of the Islamic State terrorist group, which is banned in Russia) militants," the general said.