World Bulletin / News Desk
Russian warplanes are striking predominantly-Turkmen areas in the Bayirbucak region of Syria’s northwestern Latakia province, a local Turkmen commander asserted Monday.
"The Russians aren’t targeting ISIL, they're targeting Turkmen," Ahmet Arnavut, also known as Abu Fadil, told Anadolu Agency. "There aren’t any ISIL militants in Turkmen Mountain."
Turkmen Mountain is located in Bayirbucak near the border with Turkey.
"The Russians want to purge the region of Turkmen to allow the Assad regime -- which they are supporting -- to establish control over the area," Arnavut said.
The Kremlin says its two-month-old air campaign in Syria is aimed at supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the ISIL militant group.
Some members of the western NATO alliance, however, say Russia is targeting armed opposition groups opposed to Assad -- including some that enjoy U.S. and Turkish support.
At a Nov. 26 meeting with French counterpart Francois Hollande, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to refrain from striking civilian sites and targets associated with Syria’s moderate opposition.
Since then, however, Russia has reportedly struck nine different civilian and opposition-held positions in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
According to Arnavut, ISIL militants had tried to capture Turkmen Mountain in 2013 but were repulsed following several days of clashes with Turkmen fighters.
During those clashes, Arnavut said, Turkmen fighters had managed to capture a number of Russians, who, he said, had been fighting alongside the militants.
Arnavut went on to voice gratitude to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for allowing Syrian Turkmen civilians injured in the recent fighting into Turkey.
Thousands of Turkmen have recently been displaced by Russian airstrikes and assaults by regime forces, roughly 2,000 of whom have sought shelter in southern Turkey.
Turkmen are a Turkic ethnic group based largely in Syria and Iraq, where they live alongside large Arab and Kurdish populations.
The Turkmen community, which includes both Sunni and Shia Muslims, shares close cultural affinities with the Turkish people.Last Mod: 30 Kasım 2015, 14:39