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Russia planes fly out of base in western Syria

AP , Thursday 22 Oct 2015
Russian airstrikes
Civilians inspect a site hit by what activists said were air strikes carried out by the Russian air force on Reef al-Mohandeseen area in the western countryside of Aleppo, Syria October 21, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Since early morning, Russian combat jets have been taking off from this base in western Syria, heading out on new missions.

Russia has been conducting daily airstrikes in Syria since Sept. 30 to back a Syrian government offensive. Moscow says it is targeting militants, especially from the Islamic State and other extremist groups. The United States and other critics say the strikes have hit groups fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and are likely to fan the violence.

The Russian Defense Ministry flew Moscow-based reporters to the air base overnight, giving international news organizations their first inside look at its operations here.

Dozens of jets could be seen parked around the big base Thursday morning. Russian servicemen, who wear crisp desert-style uniforms, are barred from talking to the journalists.

The base, located near the coastal city of Latakia, is protected by air defense systems, which could be seen deployed around its edges.

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