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Al-Qaeda affiliate claims bomb attack on Russian base…


Abbie Cheeseman
The Telegraph . Fri, January 1, 2021, 6:02 PM GMT+1
An Al-Qaeda affiliate has claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack against a Russian base in northeast Syria, in what is believed to be their first operation outside of the northwest of the country.

Two men had parked an explosives-laden pickup truck outside the military base in the Tal Salman area, north of Raqqa, before fleeing, said UK-based war monitor, Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR).

“It’s the first such direct attack against a Russian base in northeast Syria,” said SOHR’s Rami Abdel Rahman.

Hurras al-Din released a statement on social media claiming responsibility for the attack.

The group very rarely operates outside of Idlib, the last rebel bastion in the country, and has not been publicly claiming or advertising operations since it suffered losses in summer clashes with another al-Qaeda offshoot in Idlib, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS).

According to Aymenn J Al-Tamimi, an independent analyst focusing on jihadist groups, the attack is believed to be Hurras al-Din’s first venture outside of northwest Syria and an attempt to “maintain relevance with the idea of continuing the jihad in Syria.”

Insurgent attacks in this area are most commonly associated with the Islamic State Group.

Russia has repeatedly accused rebels in Idlib of attacking its Hmeimim airbase with drones, which in the southwest of the country is far closer to Idlib than Tal Salman. Car bomb attacks are much rarer.

There was no immediate report of the incident by Russian forces. SOHR said it caused injuries, but did not give an exact number.

The attack was in part of a broader area that is controlled by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but is overseen by the Russians as part of several deals broked with rebel backer Turkey to stop their incursion into the Kurdish northeast of the country.

The base targetted is south of Ain Issa, which is in the midst of near daily clashes between the Kurdish-led forces and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army, with Moscow pushing for the town to be handed over to Bashar al Assad’s regime forces.

Moscow joined Syria’s war as Assad’s main ally in 2015 with its air force heavily backing Syrian regime forces.

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