Russian Defense Ministry turns to “AC-130 Gunship Simulator” to make its point
Russia’s Defense Ministry has used a fake photograph to accuse the US of effectively providing air cover in Syria for the Islamic State.
The Ministry said on Tuesday, “The US command’s refusal to carry out strikes on the convoys of ISIS terrorists retreating from Albu Kamal [in eastern Syria on the Iraq border] on November 9 is an objective fact reflected in the transcripts of the talks and therefore, fully known to the US side.”
The statements included purported satellite photographs of a convoy of Islamic State militants leaving al-Bukamal, parts of which were briefly taken by a pro-Assad offensive last week before an ISIS counter-attack retook the town.
But at least one of the images was from a promotional video for the “AC-130 Gunship Simulator” computer game, posted online in March 2015.
The Ministry later said it will investigate the incident, which it said was caused by a civilian employee. But it persisted with its line against the US:
The United States’ refusal to carry out strikes against ISIS terrorist convoys retreating from Abu Kamal is a fact recorded in the transcripts of the talks and, therefore, well known to the American side, just as the active counteraction by US aircraft to the Russian Aerospace Forces, which were ready to destroy ISIS terrorists who were regrouping for new attacks against government troops near Abu Kamal.
Asked about the Russian allegations, Baghdad-based US spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said:
The Russian Ministry of Defense statements are about as accurate as their air campaign and I think that is a reason for them to start…coming out with their latest barrage of lies.
I certainly can’t verify, but I’ve seen the report that one of the pictures came from a video game. So, again that is pretty consistent with what we have seen come out of Russian MoD, as being baseless, inaccurate, and…completely false.
The Russian claim followed Sunday’s detailed report by the BBC of a deal which allowed 3,750 ISIS fighters and their relatives to leave the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s central position in Syria, when it was finally taken by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in October.
Dillon responded on Tuesday:
This was not a secret….As the civilians were coming out there was an agreement that was made that ISIS-aged males or civilians that came out would be screened and we would take biometrical data from them to see if they were in our system, if not, to be processed in that system.
Turkey Criticizes US Over ISIS Evacuation from Raqqa
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry criticized the American response to the SDF-ISIS deal for the Raqqa evacuation:
It is an extremely grave and eye-opening revelation that the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” dominated by [the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party and its militia] PYD/YPG, brokered a deal with the terrorist organization Daesh to evacuate a large number of terrorists from Raqqa while the operation to clear Daesh from Raqqa was already underway.
The Foreign Ministry said it “deplores” the statements of the US-led coalition and US Department of Defense: “The deal sets a new example of the fact that fighting one terrorist organization with another would eventually result in these terrorist organizations colluding with each other.”
Ankara considers the PYD and YPG to be part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which has fought security forces for more than 30 years.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on Tuesday:
Siding with a terrorist organization for demolishing another terrorist organization is not the kind of work which should be done by states. This work is shocking.
Those Daesh members, who were freed with their weapons, will be able to cause the killing of innocent people, notably in Turkey, Europe and America.
Russia Resumes Airstrikes Near Damascus
Russia renewed airstrikes on opposition positions in the East Ghouta area near Damascus on Tuesday.
Russian strikes had eased in recent weeks because of Moscow’s declaration of a de-escalation zone; however, opposition outlets said there were 29 raids yesterday, killing 10 people.
Pro-Assad outlets claimed more than 10 strikes on the towns of Madera and Harasta. They asserted that yesterday’s attack was a response to “a large-scale assault on the ‘Armored Vehicle Base’ by three Islamist factions” on the outskirts of Harasta.