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Syrian troops conduct mop-up operations in last liberated communities — Russian top brass

The Russian General Staff warns separate sabotage IS groups may appear on the liberated territory in Syria

MOSCOW, December 7. /TASS/. Syrian troops are conducting demining and mop-up operations in settlements located near the last stronghold of the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia), Head of the Main Operations Department at Russia’s General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi told reporters on Thursday.

According to him, the most well-trained terrorists armed with heavy weapons and foreign mercenaries were active on the last part of Syria’s territory which remained under the Islamic State’s control and has now been liberated.

"The government forces are currently conducting demining and mop-up operations in the liberated settlements," the Russian general said. 

Rudskoi added that on December 3, the people’s militia formed by the Eastern Euphrates tribes and the Kurdish forces, together with the Russian special operations units, covered by the Russian Aerospace Force, had dealt a final blow to the IS terrorists on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. "This operation was planned by the Russian Military Command in Syria and controlled by a joint operational headquarters set up in the Al-Salhiya settlement," he added.

"During the operation to liberate these area, Russian aircraft were scrambled both from the Hmeimim air base and the Deir ez-Zor air field," Rudskoi noted.

The Russian General Staff does not rule out that separate sabotage IS groups may appear on the liberated territory in Syria.

"It cannot be ruled out that separate sabotage ISIS (an old name for IS - TASS) groups may appear on the liberated territory. In this case they will be destroyed by the government forces that have specially trained mobile reserves," Rudskoi said.

He noted that there are currently no IS-controlled communities or areas in Syria. "Syria’s territory has been fully liberated from the militants of this terror organization," the colonel-general stressed.

The Russian task force in Syria will concentrate its efforts on restoring civilian life in that country. "With the elimination of the armed units of ISIL in Syria, the Russian task force will focus on providing assistance to the Syrian people in restoring civilian life and ensuring compliance with the cessation of hostilities agreements by the parties," he said.

According to Rudskoi, the Russian Center for the reconciliation of the warring parties has joined the process.

Russia’s Aerospace Force in Syria 

The use of Russia’s Aerospace Force in regaining control of the last areas of Syria still held by militants of the Islamic State (terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) was unprecedented, he said.

"Every day one hundred and more sorties were flown and 250 air strikes delivered," he said. "Russian planes attacked the militants’ positions, warehouses with arms and ammunition, armored vehicles and pickup trucks carrying heavy weapons. Long-range aircraft were used on the massive scale," Rudskoi said.

He added that long-range Tupolev-22M3 bombers in just one month carried out 14 group strikes to have flown 84 sorties. Rudskoi said the special operations forces made tangible contribution to the Islamic State’s defeat by guiding aircraft to targets and eliminating the most notorious warlords in the enemy’s rear.

"Over the past week, government troops supported by Russian aircraft have gained full control over the area northwest of Abu Kamal, from the Euphrates to the Mezile inhabited community with a total area of 2,500 square kilometers," he said.

Rudskoi recalled that the task of destroying IS units in Syria, which is being resolved by Russia’s armed forces, had been accomplished. The city of Abu Kamal and some inhabited communities on the western bank of the Euphrates have been liberated over the past month.

Syrian troops and Russian Aerospace Forces have destroyed more than 550 terrorists on the western bank of the Euphrates in the past five days.

"In the past five days of an offensive of the Syrian government troops backed by aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces, more than 550 terrorists, including about 130 suicide bombers, have been destroyed, as well as six tanks, 14 ‘Jihad mobiles’ and 91 pickup trucks with heavy machine guns," Rudskoi said.

He said that on December 6, taking advantage of a massed air strike by the Russian Aerospace Troops, units of people’s militias under the command of General Hassan Suhel acting in cooperation with units of the fifth volunteer assault corps of the Syrian Armed Forces broke through and moved 11 kilometers along the western bank of the Euphrates.

"Having taken control over the settlements of Al-Katja, Al-Musallaha, Al-Ramadi and Al-Hasrat, they tied in with units of people’s militias advancing from the direction of Abu Kamal," Rudskoi said.

He said the last section of the Syrian territory under the control of Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) has been liberated in a successful offensive. "Very well trained terrorists with heavy arms, as well as foreign mercenaries were operating there," the colonel general said.

"Russian specialists cleared a total of 1,868 buildings and 246 kilometers of roads of mines and unexploded munitions. As many as 53,478 explosive objects and improvised explosive devices have been deactivated," he said.

According to Rudskoi, the Center continues to train more mine specialists. "As of today, officers of the International Mine Action Center in Syria have trained 740 demining specialists," he noted.