Kurdish militias retreat from strategic Aleppo district after jihadist offensive

Kurdish militias have retreated from a strategic neighborhood in the Syrian city of Aleppo after Al Nusra and Ahram al-Sham militants launched a heavy offensive across the embattled city, Russian military say.

“Following heavy shelling and unceasing attacks on Kurdish positions by fighters from Jabhat Al Nusra and Ahram al-Sham terror groups, the Kurdish militias left their positions in the district of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo and retreated, ” a spokesman for the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement on Saturday.

Earlier, Russian military said that the estimated strength of the forces of Al Nusra Front and other militant groups in the area was 2,000 people.

The Russian military stressed that the offensive operation was made possible by the halt in attacks on militant positions by Russian and Syrian warplanes at the US’s request, which allowed the terrorist to regroup and replenish their weapons stockpiles.

The Al-Qaeda branch used rocket artillery, mortars and anti-aircraft cannons to attack several neighborhoods of the war-torn city, the Russian military mission in Syria reported on Saturday.

The attack devastated a police station and seriously damaged several residential buildings in Sheikh Maqsood, the report said. Over 40 civilians, security officers and military troops were killed by the shelling while some 100 were injured.

Russia wants to ramp up airstrikes on Al Nusra Front forces in northern Syria, but the US is asking Moscow to postpone it. Washington says moderate rebel groups and terrorist forces mingle among each other and that the US needs more time to pressure the moderates to pull out from Al Nusra-held territories. Russia says the US is making no significant progress on the issue.

Russia and the US are jointly backing the UN-sponsored peace talks between rebel groups and the Syrian government, which are aimed at reaching a stable transition for the war-torn country. The process is hampered by continuing attacks of Al Nusra Front and similar militant groups, which do not observe the truce, which the US and Russia negotiated.

Elsewhere, northwest of Aleppo, the militants gathered some 1,000 fighters and went on the offensive against the government forces, the report said. The attack was launched from a territory designated as held by a moderate rebel group.

Reports from the ground said that there are some Turkish servicemen among the attacking fighters, the Russian military added.