ISIS Shoots Down Helicopter in Syria, Killing 2 Russians

MOSCOW — Two Russian airmen died in Syria after their helicopter was shot down by fighters of the Islamic State, Russia’s military said on Saturday.

  • The episode occurred on Friday east of the ancient city of Palmyra, according to a Defense Ministry statement reported by Tass, the state-run news agency.
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.

    The two Russians were making a test flight in the Homs region with a Syrian Mi-25 helicopter that was carrying ammunition, the Defense Ministry said. It said Islamic State fighters broke through the lines of the Syrian government forces east of Palmyra at the same time.

    The statement said that the Syrians had requested the crew fire on the Islamic State fighters, and that the helicopter had been shot down as it was leaving after the crew exhausted its ammunition.

    At least 10 Russian service members have died in Syria, according to accounts by news agencies, since Russia intervened on behalf of the government of President Bashar al-Assad in 2015.

    Russian airstrikes have killed hundreds of fighters aligned with the Islamic State and opposition groups as well as hundreds more civilians, according to human rights organizations and other groups monitoring the conflict.

    The Syrian government and coalition forces led by the United States have also conducted airstrikes in Syria.

    Elsewhere in Syria on Saturday, clashes erupted between rebels and pro-government forces around Aleppo.

    Earlier, Syrian state media reported that a rocket barrage on residential areas on the government side of Aleppo killed 44 people on Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group based in Britain that monitors the conflict with the help of contacts in Syria, put the toll at 38 dead.

    Airstrikes on the village of Darkoush in the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib on Friday killed 23 people, according to the Observatory.