Russia says general killed in Syria held senior post in Assad’s army

Mourners gather around the grave of Russian Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov who was killed by Daesh shelling near Deir Ezzor during his funeral ceremony at a military cemetery outside Moscow. (Reuters)
Updated 28 September 2017
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Russia says general killed in Syria held senior post in Assad’s army

MOSCOW: A Russian general killed in Syria had been seconded to the Syrian regime as a military commander, Russia’s military chief of staff said on Wednesday.
Moscow has long been a staunch ally of Syria, but the role of the deceased general reveals the extent to which Russia has become an integral part of President Bashar Assad’s ruling system.
Lt. Gen. Valery Asapov, 51, was killed on Saturday by shelling from Daesh positions near Deir Ezzor. He was the chief of staff of Russian forces deployed to the country and later became the commander of Syria’s Fifth Corps of volunteers, chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov said.
It was known that the Syrian Fifth Attack Troop Corps of volunteers, formed in late 2016, was equipped and advised by the Russians, but Damascus and Moscow had not previously announced it was under Russian command.
Speaking at Asapov’s funeral, Gerasimov said: “High prestige combined with care were outstanding features of his work.
“Of course, those qualities were displayed during his working trip to the Syrian Arab Republic, where he had been deployed from February this year,” Gerasimov said, addressing Asapov’s family and colleagues.
“He worked as the chief of staff of the group of our forces and then was in command of the Fifth Corps of volunteers ... A treacherous shell cut short his life.”
A security specialist, who worked in Syria alongside the Russian and Syrian military, said Asapov was de facto the commander of Syria’s Fifth Corps but he may have been listed as chief military adviser on paper.
“Syrian officers relied completely on our officers,” he said.
Hundreds of people, most of them from the Russian military, attended the funeral at the Federal Military Memorial Cemetery for Asapov who became the highest-ranking military officer to be killed in the Syrian war.
Inscriptions in Russian and Arabic on some of garlands said they were sent by President Assad, Syrian ministers and military commanders.


Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

Updated 23 March 2019
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Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

  • According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment
SOUSA, SYRIA: US-led warplanes bombed the north bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria on Friday to flush out holdout militants from the last sliver of their crumbling “caliphate.”
Friday’s bombardment ended two days of relative calm on the front line in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had paused its advance while it combed a makeshift militant encampment, which it overran on Tuesday.
An SDF official said warplanes of the US-led coalition resumed strikes on suspected militant positions before dawn on Friday.
Top SDF commander Jia Furat said his forces were engaging with the Daesh fighters on several fronts while the coalition warplanes provided air support.
The coalition said the “operation to complete the liberation of Baghouz is ongoing.”
“It remains a hard fight, and Daesh is showing that they intend to keep fighting for as long as possible,” it said. The SDF launched what it called its “final assault” against the rebels’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz on Feb. 9.
Finally on Tuesday, they cornered diehard fighters into a few acres of farmland along the Euphrates River, after forcing them out of their rag-tag encampment of tents and battered vehicles.
The six-month-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of Daesh’s once-sprawling proto-state is close to reaching its inevitable outcome, but the SDF has said a declaration of victory will be made only after they have completed flushing out the last tunnels and hideouts.
According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment. They are hiding along the bank of the Euphrates River as well as at the base of a hill overlooking Baghouz, he told AFP.
“In around one or two days, we will conclude military operations if there are no surprise developments,” he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh holdouts were hiding in underground tunnels and caves in Baghouz.
SDF official Jiaker Amed said several militants want to surrender but are being prevented from doing so by other fighters.
“We are trying our best to wrap up the operation without fighting, but some of them are refusing to surrender,” he said.
More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have quit the last Daesh redoubt since Jan. 9, according to the SDF.
They comprise 5,000 militants and 24,000 of their relatives as well as 37,000 other civilians.
The thousands who have streamed out have been housed in cramped camps and prisons run by Kurdish forces further north.
On Wednesday night, around 2,000 women and children from Baghouz arrived at the largest camp, Al-Hol, which is struggling to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of people, many in poor health.
Since December, at least 138 people, mostly children, have died en route to Al-Hol or shortly after arrival, according to the International Rescue Committee.
Daesh declared a “caliphate” in June 2014 after seizing a vast swathe of territory larger than Britain straddling Iraq and Syria.
The loss of the Baghouz enclave would signal the demise of the “caliphate” in Syria, after its defeat in Iraq in 2017.
But Daesh has already begun its transformation into a guerilla organization, and still carries out deadly hit-and-run attacks from desert or mountain hideouts.
In a video released on Daesh’s social media channels on Thursday, militants vowed to continue to carry out attacks.
“To those who think our caliphate has ended, we say not only has it not ended, but it is here to stay,” said one fighter.
He urged Daesh supporters to conduct attacks in the West against the enemies of the “caliphate.”
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted following the repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.