The Latest: US has hit targets near Aleppo, official says

Vladimir Putin
FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2015, file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, right, in Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow. Face-to-face for the first time in nearly a year, President Barack Obama and Putin on Monday, Sept. 28, will confront rising tensions over Moscow’s military engagement in Syria, as well as the stubborn crisis in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

 

MOSCOW (AP) — The latest developments as Russia and other nations counter Islamic State militants in Syria. All times local:

7:05 p.m.

The U.S. conducted airstrikes in Syria as planned Wednesday including one near Aleppo, which is in the northwest but not near where the Russians were flying, a U.S. official said.

The official said the Russian officer who notified the U.S. of the strikes said the U.S. should stay out of Syrian airspace and remove any troops it has on the ground working with rebels in Syria.

The U.S. has repeatedly said it has no U.S. military forces on the ground in Syria.

The official was not authorized to discuss the missions publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

—By Lolita Baldor and Robert Burns in Washington

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7:00 p.m.

Activists and a rebel commander in Syria claim the Russian airstrikes in the country have mostly hit moderate rebel positions and civilians.

In a video released by the U.S.-backed rebel group Tajamu Alezzah, jets are seen hitting a building claimed to be a location of the group in the town of Latamna in the central Hama province.

The group commander Jameel al-Saleh told a local Syrian news website that the group’s location was hit by Russian jets but didn’t specify the damage.

A group of local activists in the town of Talbiseh in Homs province recorded at least 16 civilians killed, including two children. A Syrian military official had earlier said the Russian jets hit this town.

The AP could not independently verify the claims.

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6:25 p.m.

Former CIA director, Gen. David Petraeus, has said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s immediate objective in Syria is to solidify the corridor on the Mediterranean coast between Latakia where he has an air base and Tartus where he has a Russian naval base.

As he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Petraeus said Putin also wants to help Syrian President Bashar Assad solidify his grip on the country, which has been increasingly challenged in recent months by the Islamic State and other opposition groups.

Petraeus warned against partnering with Russia, Iran and Assad against IS and said the U.S. should deter any action by Russia involving any of the forces backed by the U.S.

“If Russia wanted to fight ISIS, they could have joined the 60-plus member coalition that Gen. Allen has so capably put together and help drop bombs on ISIS. They have some capabilities that would be useful to that fight so this is clearly not what they’re up to,” he said.

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6:15 p.m.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein says she thinks it’s possible that Russia’s move in Syria could be a positive development.

Feinstein, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said help from “Russia and Iran in a political solution for Syria is important.”

Feinstein said the key is to defeat the Islamic State group and then to hold an election in Syria, and that the U.S. should cooperate with Russia.

She said it was important to “change the dynamic” because IS continues to encroach on other states.

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6:05 p.m.

A senior U.S. official says Russia’s airstrikes in Syria did not appear to be targeting the Islamic State group, but other opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The official said IS militants are not in the western part of the country, beyond Homs, where the Russian strikes were directed.

The official was not authorized to discuss the Russian airstrikes publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Russia notified the U.S. about the impending airstrikes through the embassy in Baghdad about an hour before they started, the official said.

According to the official, there were no conflicts with the Russian strikes, and they had no impact on the coalition missions, which are primarily in the north and east.

The U.S. is still trying to assess the damages of the Russian strikes.

—By Lolita C. Baldor and Robert Burn in Washington.

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5:50 p.m.

A U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group has claimed that Russian warplanes have hit its positions in central Syria.

The group, known as Tajamu Alezzah, wrote scornfully on Twitter Wednesday that “eradicating terrorism appears to begin with attacks” on its locations in the central city of Latamna in the province of Hama.

The group, which boasts of having TOW missiles, didn’t provide specific details on the targets or how it can ascertain the strikes were by Russian jets.

Washington has equipped and trained a number of moderate Syrian rebel groups but most have been crushed by al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria.

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5:45 p.m.

Russia’s foreign minister is telling the foreign ministers of world powers that his country is “ready to forge standing channels of communication to ensure a maximally effective fight against terrorist groups” with the United States and other countries.

Sergey Lavrov spoke Wednesday to the U.N. Security Council shortly after Russia’s defense ministry announced its jets are carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State group positions in Syria.

Lavrov said Russia would shortly circulate a draft council resolution to promote joint efforts against groups like the Islamic State.

Lavrov addressed the council during a major U.N. gathering of world leaders. Russia is chairing the meeting as the council president this month.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also is expected to address the meeting.

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5:35 p.m.

A Syrian military official says Russian warplanes have targeted positions of the Islamic State group in central Syria.

Syrian state TV quotes an unnamed military official as saying that the air raids are part of the “Russian-Syrian agreement to fight international terrorism and wipe out the Daesh organization.”

The official used an Arabic acronym to refer to the Islamic State group.

The official said on Wednesday that the air raids targeted the extremists’ positions in central Syria including the areas of Rastan and Talbiseh, as well as areas near the town of Salamiyeh in Hama province.

The official said the Russian airstrikes were in cooperation with the Syrian air force.

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5:00 p.m.

Pentagon’s press secretary says Defense Secretary Ash Carter has instructed his staff to talk to Russian officials about how to keep each other’s air operations in Syria from colliding or getting in each other’s way.

Peter Cook said it was not yet clear when these talks would start or who would participate.

Russia’s defense ministry earlier Tuesday said its jets have started carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State group positions in Syria.

A U.S. led coalition has been targeting IS militants in Syria and Iraq since last year.

Russia and the U.S. are at odds over the Russian involvement because Washington has said Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is a key ally of Moscow, must be removed from power.

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4:20 p.m.

Russia’s defense ministry says its jets are carrying out airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria.

The ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies on Wednesday that Russian jets are carrying out targeted airstrikes on the positions, vehicles and warehouses that Russia believes belong to IS militants.

Earlier Wednesday, Russia’s upper chamber of parliament gave the green light to President Vladimir Putin’s request to use Russian forces in Syria. A Kremlin official said the move was to protect Russia’s national security, since at least 2,400 Russians have gone to fight in Syria or Iraq.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is a key ally of Moscow.

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