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Over 9,000 Islamic State terrorists active in Syria — Russian General Staff

The terrorists are now concentrated mainly in the central part of the country and the republic’s eastern areas bordering Iraq

KUBINKA/Moscow Region/, August 25. /TASS/. The number of Islamic State terrorist group members in Syria exceeds 9,000, Head of the Russian General Staff’s Main Department, Igor Korobov, said on Thursday.

"This group’s number in Syria, according to our estimates, reaches more than 9,000 militants, who are now concentrated mainly in the central part of the country and the republic’s eastern areas bordering Iraq, mainly along the Euphrates River," Korobov told a roundtable of the Army-2017 military and technical forum.

According to him, leaders of the Islamic State group consider the Syrian territory as a foothold for their expansion to the Middle East and other world regions as part of implementing the concept of creating the "greater caliphate."

"Amid the operation carried out by Russia and Syria, and also the US-led international anti-terrorist coalition against this group, the IS leaders seek to prevent the destruction on the territories they control of power structures that they call a symbol of the Islamic rebirth," Korobov said.

The IS field commanders have been tasked with keeping control over the seized areas, including oil deposits in eastern Syria, and also strategic transportation routes for deploying gunmen and cargos from Iraq to Syria and return, he said.

More than 15,000 Al-Nusra Front terrorists operate in Syria

The number of terrorists operating in the Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) terrorist organization outlawed in Russia is more than 15,000, according to Korobov.

"Jabhat al-Nusra is the second terrorist organization in Syria by its fighting capacity, which includes more than 15,000 militants, most of them Syrians," Korobov said.

Unlike the IS (Islamic State, a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia), the Jabhat al-Nusra leaders support not the establishment of an Islamic caliphate from Morocco to Malaysia, but, in the first place, replacement of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime and establishment of a Sharia-based state on the territory, he said.

"This group is controlling most part of the Idlib Governorate. Besides, [its] forces are being active in the Homs Governorate, the suburb of Eastern Ghouta, in southern Syria and near the administrative centers of the Quneitra and Daraa Governorates," Korobov added.

He specified that Al-Nusra Front, like the IS, is forcing radical Islam in controlled areas. Violation of sharia laws is severely punished, including death sentence.

Al-Nusra offensive in Idlib

About 9,000 terrorists of Jabhat al-Nusra group seek to take control of Syria’s Idlib province to disrupt the creation of a de-escalation zone there, Korobov said.

"The overall number of Jabhat al-Nusra group in the north-western Idlib province reaches 9,000. Now terrorists are seeking to take control of its entire territory, stepping up combat actions against formations of moderate opposition," Korobov said.

The al-Nusra terrorists have managed to deal a heavy blow to the Ahrar al-Sham group and occupy a dominant position, he said. The radical opposition units, who sought to avoid full destruction, joined the terrorists.

"It cannot be ruled out that by doing this, leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra try at this stage to prevent the creation of a de-escalation zone in this part of Syria and therefore undermine the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict," he said.