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23 Jan, 2016 12:47

Russian military protects int’l team of journalists as they tour liberated Salma, Syria

The Russian military has shown the freed Syrian town of Salma to international media. The US, Chinese and Japanese journalists only understood where they were headed a few minutes before arrival.

Once they were in Salma, journalists got the opportunity to move freely and ask people in the town any questions they liked, media outlet Vesti.ru reported. 

The correspondents visited a local clinic which had just resumed its work, and saw construction supplies that had been recently delivered.

The journalists were protected by the same Russian special forces unit which ensures the security of military men at the Russian Khmeimim base near Latakia.

About 500 people currently live in Salma, a hilltop town which had been a resort before it was seized by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants.

“You can see all around the main road the effects of house-to-house battles that were fought here over the last few days. We still can hear the explosions as we do this report, just in the mountains behind us, showing how close the frontline still is,” RT’s Daniel Hawkins, who was at the scene, said.

Rescue teams are currently working in the town to restore essential services such as electricity, TV channel Zvezda reported.

The 12th Syrian Army – with active support from the Russian Air Force and the elite “Falcons of the desert” unit – took control of the strategic hilltop town last week, forcing IS forces to leave their positions.

Government forces were able to capture the city "thanks to the support of the… Russian Air Force," Latakia Governor Ibrahim Khder al-Saalem said.

"Our army will now press its offensive further," he added, as cited by AP.

The town had been outside of the Syrian government’s control for over three years.
Russia started its campaign in Syria on September 30. Over the past four months, Russian military planes have carried out almost 6,000 missions to help the Syrian authorities deal with IS on the ground.

Russian forces have been assisting Assad in the advance against terrorists all over Syria, and have helped to take control of dozens of villages in the north and west.