Middle East

Syria war: Russian jets 'destroy IS convoy near Deir al-Zour'

A Russian Sukhoi Su-35 bomber lands at an air base in Latakia province, in north-western Syria, on 4 May 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Russia launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad two years ago

Dozens of so-called Islamic State (IS) militants are reported to have been killed in a Russian air strike near the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zour.

Russia's defence ministry said at least 200 jihadists had died after its air force targeted a convoy of about 20 4x4s, armoured vehicles and tanks.

It did not say when the strike took place, but a monitoring group reported that a convoy had been hit last Friday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 70.

The activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 news network also said there had been a strike on a convoy outside Deir al-Zour on Friday that killed a number of militants.

IS has been besieging Syrian government-controlled areas of the city since 2015, leaving some 90,000 civilians dependent on air drops of aid organised by the UN.

Russia, which launched a military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad two years ago, has been bombing IS positions along the frontline in Deir al-Zour in an attempt to stop the government enclave falling to the jihadist group.

Syrian troops and allied militiamen are meanwhile advancing towards the city from the west, moving along the main road through the desert from Palmyra.

Earlier this month they took the last IS-held town in Homs province, Sukhna, which is only 120km (75 miles) from Deir al-Zour.

Although IS still controls most of Deir al-Zour province, it has been losing ground fast elsewhere in Syria to the government and to Kurdish-led forces backed by a US-led multinational coalition that is focused on retaking the northern city of Raqqa.

The Syrian Observatory also reported that 27 civilians had died in a coalition air strike in the Badu district of central Raqqa on Sunday, bringing to at least 125 the number killed in the city in the past week.

The coalition said it is was assessing the report, but earlier said that on Sunday its aircraft had engaged 14 IS tactical units and destroyed 22 fighting positions, two drone staging areas, two heavy machine-guns, a vehicle and an explosives cache.