- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Almost 80 percent of Russia’s declared targets in Syria have been in areas not held by Islamic State militants, according to a Reuters analysis of Russian Defense Ministry Data. 

The majority of strikes, according to the data, have targeted areas held by anti-Assad groups, including al Qaeda operatives as well as rebel fighters backed by the U.S. 

Moscow’s Defense Ministry has named 64 locations bombed by Russian warplanes since President Vladimir Putin launched the airstrike campaign three weeks ago. 

Of those targets, a maximum of 15 were in areas held by Islamic State terrorists, according to a survey of locations of the rival forces in Syria compiled by the Institute for the Study of War.

The analysis contradicts Russia’s earlier claims that its goal is to take out Islamic State terrorists and supports U.S. and NATO assertions that Moscow’s aim is to prop up embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. 

Russia’s air force has flown over 780 sorties against almost 800 targets in Syria since Sept. 30. As recently as Monday, its jets hit targets in six named locations, none of which were in areas held by Islamic State, the Reuters analysis showed.

“The main goal of these airstrikes is supporting ground offensives by the Syrian army,” said Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based defense columnist and deputy editor of online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal.

Backed by Russia’s air force, Syrian government forces have launched offensives against rebels in Syria’s Homs, Hama, Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Russia’s bombing campaign has killed 370 people in the last three weeks, one-third of them civilians.

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