MOSCOW, Russia — Russian warplanes on Tuesday flew out from an Iranian air base to conduct strikes against jihadist groups in war-torn Syria, the defense ministry in Moscow said.
The raids are the first Russia has reported carrying out from a base in Iran since the Kremlin launched its Syrian bombing campaign in support of long-time ally Bashar Assad last September.
“On August 16 Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 frontline bombers, flying with a full bomb load from the Hamedan air base (Islamic Republic of Iran), conducted a group air strike against targets of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor and Idlib,” the ministry said in a statement.
The strikes resulted in the destruction of “five large warehouses with weapons, ammunition and fuel” and jihadist training camps near Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, the village of Saraqeb in the Idlib region and Al-Bab, an IS-held town in Aleppo province, the statement said.
The bombing also targeted three command centers near the village of Jafra and Deir Ezzor, killing “a large number of fighters,” Moscow said.
Iran and Russia are the two firmest backers of the Assad regime and have opposed international calls for the Syrian leader to step down in a bid to resolve a civil war that has killed more than 290,000 people since it erupted in March 2011.
Iran is Assad’s main regional ally and has provided steady military, financial, and political support to the regime.
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu claimed separately in comments aired Monday that Russia and the United States are also close to joining forces around Syria’s ravaged second city of Aleppo, where Russian planes and regime forces are battling rebels for control.
Fighting for the city has intensified after regime troops seized control of the last supply route into rebel-held areas in mid-July.
The increased fighting has raised concerns for the estimated 1.5 million civilians still in Aleppo, including some 250,000 in rebel-held areas.