ISIS in Syria using mosques as shelters, civilians as shields – Russian Defense Ministry
Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces are sheltering in mosques and trying to hide their vehicles around them, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters Tuesday, citing video evidence.
“Knowing our careful, respectful attitude to mosques they understand that we would never - under any circumstances – carry out airstrikes against civilian facilities,” he said, following a meeting with Defense press attachés from several countries, with a US representative among them.
Later in the day, Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, also warned that terrorists may be preparing provocations such as bombing mosques to accuse the Russian Air Force of committing war crimes.
"As this example clearly shows, ‘moderate rebels’ would not hide behind civilians as human shields or, moreover, concentrate armored vehicles under the arches of religious institutions. All of these actions can only be the calling card of terrorists,” the Ministry of Defense commented on the issued video.
Anatoly Antonov also emphasized that Russia uses data from space and air surveillance - not only information gathered from the Syrian Army.
“We check the data a hundred times. Our decisions are well balanced, deliberate and calculated. We carry out airstrikes only if we are 100 percent sure that we are hitting the right target,” Antonov said.
He also expressed his regret about the media reaction to the Russian military operation in Syria as well as about the statements of US Secretary Defense Ashton Carter (about the necessity to resist Russian actions in Syria).
“That is a real information war,” he remarked.
Antonov also revealed that the Russian Defense Ministry and the Pentagon are working on a document concerning coordination of air operations in Syria.
“Unfortunately, the US is reducing our coordination only to its technical aspects – that is between our pilots during their missions,” Antonov said, adding that the General Staff in principle supports the agreement.
The Deputy Defense Minister believes that the potential of the Russian-US cooperation on Syria is much wider but said that Russia does not impose itself as a partner to solve the common problem.
He also said that on October 1, a video conference between the US and Russian defense ministries took place. A second one is planned for the next few days.
“But it would be better if our colleagues came to us and we discussed all the problems eye to eye here, at the Defense Ministry headquarters,” Antonov added.
Russia would welcome a Turkish Defense Ministry delegation to avoid further misunderstandings during the Russian military operation in Syria, Antonov said, referring to the accidental intrusion of a Russian aircraft into Turkish airspace.
Moscow launched its military operation against ISIS and other terrorist groups at the request of the Syrian government on September 30 and has already targeted a number of the ISIS infrastructure units hitting command centers, ammunition depots and explosive production sites, among others.
If the US and the West in general are “serious” about fighting ISIS, they should unite with the world community to counter the threat, Daoud Khairallah, International Law professor at Georgetown University, told RT.
“If Washington and the international community, any European country or any country in the world, if it is serious – they should be serious – about fighting terrorism … the entire world community should get together, should cooperate, should coordinate its efforts to achieve some results, some tangible results, effective results,” Khairallah said, adding that terrorism is a “threat to every society in the world,” not just some particular nations.
“Unfortunately, we see doubletalk. We see some countries, the US included, saying or declaring certain objectives and behaving in a way that don’t indicate that it is serious about fighting terrorism and achieving those results,” Khairallah added.
The professor stressed that while ISIS as a terror group can hardly be held accountable under international law, countries supporting jihadists must be revealed and punished.
“ISIS would not be accountable, as such, it’s not an international entity. It is those countries that support, that facilitate the work of ISIS, that help the recruiting of ISIS, these countries should be held accountable. And a serious investigation about how ISIS is funded, how it is operating and who is facilitating its move between countries, especially with respect to foreign fighters for ISIS: this is where accountability for ISIS should lie and this is where the international community should be moving,” he said.