Tue Sep 12, 2017 03:16PM
Syrian forces re-group on a main road leading to city of Dayr al-Zawr on September 10, 2017, as they continue to press forward with Russian air cover in the offensive against Daesh Takfiri terrorists across Dayr al-Zawr province. (Photo by AFP)
Syrian forces re-group on a main road leading to city of Dayr al-Zawr on September 10, 2017, as they continue to press forward with Russian air cover in the offensive against Daesh Takfiri terrorists across Dayr al-Zawr province. (Photo by AFP)

The Russian military says the Syrian government has managed to liberate 85 percent of the country from the grips of terrorist groups, some two years after Moscow began a counterterrorism campaign in Syria at the official request of Damascus.

Lieutenant General Aleksandr Lapin, the Russian chief of staff in Syria, announced the news in a press conference held at Hmeymim Air Base in Syria’s western province of Latakia on Tuesday. He added that Syrian forces must now clear the remaining 15 percent of the country, which amounts to 27,000 square kilometers, of terrorists.

Lapin said Syrian troops continued the operation to free the eastern city of Dayr al-Zawr from Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, after they managed to break an almost three-year siege on the embattled city earlier this month.

“Currently the operation to free the city is ongoing. The Syrian military will soon finish off” Daesh terrorists, who “used to occupy the city’s neighborhoods,” he added.

Lapin stated that Kalibr cruise missiles, launched from the Black Sea escort vessel, Admiral Essen, had destroyed Daesh’s command posts and communication networks; an effective move that disrupted control of the terror group’s units in Dayr al-Zawr province.

“Over 450 terrorists, five tanks and 42 pickups, with heavy machine guns, were liquidated during the operation,” he said.

In a bid to aid the war-torn Arab nation in its war against foreign-sponsored terrorism, in September 2015, Russia started a campaign in Syria at an official request made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian warplanes, based in Hmeymim, have so far significantly aided the government troops in ridding Syria of the widespread militancy. One of the biggest breakthroughs in anti-terror offensives was made in December last year, when Syrian troops, backed by Russian air force, managed to gain full control of the city of Aleppo.

A handout picture taken on March 16, 2016 and released by the Russian Defense Ministry shows a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber taking off from Hmeymim military base in Latakia province, western Syria. (Photo by AFP)

Moscow has also played a major role in co-sponsoring peace negotiations between the so-called armed opposition groups and Damascus to pave the way for implementing local ceasefires in the country and setting up de-escalation zones across Syria in an attempt to reduce fighting across the country.

The sixth round of the intra-Syrian talks is scheduled to be held in the Kazakh capital city, Astana, to facilitate the creation of the fourth de-escalation zone in Syria’s western province of Idlib, where significant numbers of Takfiri terrorists, most notably from al-Nusra Front, are operating. The five previous rounds of such talks were also held in Astana, with Russia, Iran and Turkey serving as guarantor states.

The United States and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a United Nations mandate. The Syrian government has time and against expressed its strong opposition to the so-called military campaign.

In early August, Damascus wrote similar letters to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the chairman of the UN Security Council, calling for the dissolution of the US-led coalition.

According to a report by the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in August, 42,234 documented airstrikes in the country had resulted in a minimum estimate of some 7,000 civilians killed by the US-led coalition between 2014 and 2017.

The UK-based group also reported on Tuesday that the so-called “coalition airstrikes killed 12 members of a single family, among them five children, in a village on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River,” in the village of al-Shahabat in Dayr al-Zawr province.

Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. The Damascus government has repeatedly blamed certain foreign countries for the spread of the devastating militancy.