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Russia strikes kill 120 IS fighters, over 60 `foreign mercenaries` in Syria

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A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 bomber lands at the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria

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08th-Oct-2017       
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AFP, Moscow :
Some 120 Islamic State fighters and 60 foreign mercenaries were killed in a series of Russian air strikes in Syria over the past 24 hours, the defence ministry in Moscow said on Saturday.
"A command post of the terrorists and up to 80 (IS) fighters including nine natives of the Northern Caucasus were destroyed in the area of Mayadeen," the ministry said, adding some 40 IS fighters were killed around the town of Albu Kamal.
As a result of an air strike more than 60 foreign mercenaries from the former Soviet Union, Tunisia, and Egypt were killed south of Deir Ezzor.
The ministry said the "large numbers of foreign mercenaries" were coming into the Syrian border town of Albu Kamal from Iraq.
Mayadeen is one of the Islamic State group's last bastions in Syria.
The advances against IS in Deir Ezzor have cost a heavy civilian death toll from Russian and coalition air raids.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian air strikes on Thursday night killed 14 people, including three children, fleeing across the Euphrates on rafts near Mayadeen.
Russia has not acknowledged any civilian deaths from its strikes since it intervened in Syria in 2015, and dismisses the Observatory's reporting as biased.
Moscow has been carrying out air strikes in support of its ally Damascus targeting both IS in Deir Ezzor province and rival jihadists led by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate in Idlib province in the northwest.
Meanwhile, two waves of air strikes on a jihadist-held town in northwestern Syria have killed at least 13 civilians over the past 24 hours, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
Four children were among the dead in the early morning strikes on the Idlib province town of Khan Sheikhun on Friday and Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the strikes were probably carried out by the Syrian air force, which has been carrying out an intensifying bombing campaign against jihadist targets in Idlib province alongside aircraft from ally Russia.
Like most of the rest of Idlib province, Khan Sheikhun is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist factions dominated by Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate.
The town hit the headlines in April when it was the target of a sarin gas attack that killed at least 87 people, 30 of them children.
US President Donald Trump blamed the Syrian government for the attack and ordered cruise missile strikes on the airbase from which he said it had been launched.
Damascus blamed jihadists on the ground for the deaths and received strong support for that position from Moscow.
A safe zone was supposed to be established in Idlib and adjacent areas of Hama and Latakia provinces under a deal reached in May by rebel backer Turkey and government backers Iran and Russia.
But during the summer the jihadists, who are not party to the agreement, drove out Islamist former allies from Idlib and took nearly full control.
Moscow says it has since killed 12 jihadist commanders and destroyed the group's largest arms depot.
But there has also been a heavy civilian death toll, according to the Observatory, a Britain-based monitoring group.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday "a serious operation" was beginning in Syria's Idlib and a Syrian rebel official said his group was preparing to enter the area with the backing of Turkish forces.
Idlib and surrounding areas of northwest Syria are among the largest bastions for rebel groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but have increasingly fallen under the sway of jihadist insurgent factions.

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