Defense

ISIS Destroys Four Russian Helicopters, One Fighter Aircraft In Major Assault On Syrian Airbase

REUTERS/US Navy/MC2 Jason R. Zalasky/Handout via Reuters

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

A recent Islamic State attack on a Russian military base in Syria destroyed four helicopters, a fighter jet and several other vehicles, showing ISIS is still a force to be reckoned with, as Russia continues to be a major presence in the region.

U.S.-based intelligence firm Stratfor claimed Tuesday it discovered remnants of the attack after reviewing satellite imagery of the T4 Russian airbase near the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. An image dated May 14 shows the airbase intact, with four Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters and a Mi-8 Hip transport helicopter sitting on the tarmac. An image taken May 17 clearly shows wreckage of the four Hinds.

ISIS appears to have also severely damaged a Mig-25 Foxbat fighter aircraft and destroyed a supply depot.

Russian state-owned news agency TASS was quick to deny Stratfor’s report, saying all military assets in Syria were operating normally.

“All the Russian combat helicopters staying in the Syrian Arab Republic are performing planned assignments to destroy terrorists. There are no casualties among the personnel of the Russian airbase,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov Tuesday.

The T4 airbase is “one of the most important Syrian bases in the country,” according to Stratfor. The base is a staging area for a significant portion of Russia’s military operations in Syria, housing two fighter aircraft squadrons made up of Su-24 and Su-22 aircraft.

Russia has been operating attack helicopters from T4 since at least last November. Palmyra gained international attention after ISIS took over the ancient Roman city, destroying many of its buildings and staging a massive execution on its premises.

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially gave the order for many of his forces to leave Syria in May, however, it became clear that Russia had simply transferred forces in and out.

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