- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Syrian military has recently started using newer and more accurate, air and ground weapons supplied by Russia, a Syrian military source said Thursday, fueling U.S. concerns over Russia’s growing military buildup in the region.

The source told Reuters the army had started using the highly efficient weapons in recent weeks and have been training with them in Syria for months.

“New weapons are being delivered, and new types of weapons. The Syrian army is being trained in the use of these weapons. In fact, the army has started using some of these [weapon] types,” the source told Reuters.

“The weapons are highly effective and very accurate, and hit targets precisely,” the source added. “We can say they are all types of weapons — be it air or ground.”

In addition to to supplying weapons, Russia has also reportedly placed its own forces on the ground in Syria.

Moscow claims its military actions have been in support of the fight against terrorism in Syria, but U.S. officials are concerned that Russia may join forces with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in a four-year civil war that has killed an estimated 250,000 people.

So far, Iran and Hezbollah have been the main suppliers of military aid to Damascus in the conflict. Hezbollah has participated directly in combat and Iran has mobilized militias and sent military advisers.

U.S. officials on Wednesday said four Russian helicopters had been spotted at a Syrian airfield, including helicopter gunships, but it was unclear when the helicopters arrived in the region.

Russia has also reportedly sent about 200 naval infantry forces, battle tanks, artillery and other equipment to an airfield near Latakia, according to Reuters.

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