At least 6 civilians killed, 71 wounded in jihadist shelling of Aleppo – RT reporter

Jihadist militants appear to have launched a major offensive from east Aleppo, Syria, an RT crew reports from the scene. Residential areas are under heavy shelling, with at least six people confirmed killed and over 70 injured.

Alleged Al-Nusra Front fighters are trying to break through the blockade of the city, RT’s Murad Gazdiev reported from Aleppo.

He said at least six civilians were confirmed killed from the shelling since Friday morning, including a two-year-old boy. Dozens were injured in the attacks. The shelling targeted the Bustan al-Qasr area of western Aleppo.

The Syrian military says it is in control of the situation and has prevented the militants from breaking through or capturing any territory.

The offensive comes after Russia and Syria, blamed by the US and its allies of causing civilian casualties by striking militant positions in east Aleppo, stopped sorties over the divided city. The pause in air action lasted a full 10 days.

A spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham, a large Islamist rebel group, said in a social media message that the factions involved in the attack include the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Jaish al-Fatah, an alliance of Islamist factions, Reuters reported, citing the Levant Front – a group fighting under the umbrella of the FSA.

There are numerous militant groups in east Aleppo, all opposing government forces and their allies. The US says the jihadists play a minor role in the region and accuses Russia of targeting so-called moderate rebels rather than terrorists.

@MIG29_ Aleppo : Bereaved father with his deceased infant child by militants missiles

Russia says Al-Nusra Front – an Al-Qaeda offshoot – actually dominates east Aleppo, with most other armed groups answering to it. The continued failure of the US to separate moderate rebels from jihadists as promised by Washington attests to that, Moscow believes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on the problem on Friday after meeting his Syrian and Iranian counterparts in Moscow.

“Our agreements with the Americans put the separation of the moderate opposition from the terrorists as a priority. There has been no progress in this field so far and frankly speaking no progress can be expected anytime soon,” he said.

“We think that terrorists have to be destroyed. And while our colleagues are only speaking about fighting terrorism, we are fully ready to put it into practice.”

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EU asylum for suspected Istanbul attack mastermind repeatedly blocked his extradition to Russia

A Chechen national suspected of being the mastermind behind the deadly Istanbul airport terrorist attack, earlier received refugee status in Austria, which helped him to repeatedly avoid extradition to Russia on terror charges.

The fatal attack on the Istanbul airport that took lives of 44 people and left more than 230 injured was allegedly organized by Ahmed Chataev, a Russian citizen of Chechen origin, who joined Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) in 2015 and now fights in Syria, Turkish media report, citing police sources.

Chataev was assigned a leading role in training extremists that would then commit terrorist attacks in both Russia and Western Europe, the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee Andrey Przhezdomsky said, adding that, in Syria, Chataev also commands a unit consisting “primarily of immigrants from the North Caucasus,” Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported earlier this year.

Chataev turned out to be long wanted by the Russian authorities for terrorism-related offenses but he fled to Europe, where he was granted asylum, and successfully managed to escape extradition to Russia.

Chataev joined Islamist secessionist militants that fought against Russia in the Second Chechen War between 1999 and 2000, where he lost an arm. Later, he was considered to be a representative of Dokka Umarov, once a “terrorist №1” in Russia, in the Western Europe.

The eyed Istanbul airport attack mastermind was on a wanted list in Russia since 2003 for sponsoring terrorism, recruiting extremists and membership in a terrorist group, Russian media report. However, in the same year, he received asylum in Austria. Chataev reportedly claimed that he lost his arm as he was severely tortured in Russian prison adding that he is being persecuted by Russian authorities.

In 2008, he was detained with some other Chechen nationals in the Swedish town of Trelleborg as police found Kalashnikov assault rifles, explosives and ammunition in his car. As a result, he spent more than a year in Swedish prison.

In 2010, Chataev was arrested in Ukraine with his mobile phone files containing a demolition technique instruction and photos of people killed in a blast. Russia requested his extradition on terrorism-related charges but the European Court for Human Rights ordered Ukraine not to hand him over to Russia with Amnesty International also urging Ukrainian authorities to halt extradition as Chataev “could face an unfair trial and would be at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.”

A year later, he was once again detained as he was crossing the border between Turkey and Bulgaria but he again avoided extradition because of the interference of human rights organizations that stressed Chataev had a refugee status in Austria and thus cannot be sent to Russia, Kommersant reported.

Between 2012 and 2015, Chataev reportedly lived in Georgia, where he also joined some terrorist groups and served a prison sentence on terrorism-related charges.

In February 2015, he left Georgia for Syria, where he joined IS militants and soon took a high position in the Islamic State hierarchy. In October 2015, the US Justice Ministry added Chataev to the terrorist list because of his alleged involvement into recruitment of extremists.

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'Never mind the US, Russia’s the one losing patience over Syria ceasefire chaos' - Chief of Staff

The Russian military says Washington still won’t provide a list of groups it considers terrorist, allowing jihadists to regroup and escape Russian-led air raids on their positions, the head of the Russian General Staff said.

Valery Gerasimov’s statement comes in response to one from US Secretary of State John Kerry last week, in which he said Washington is running out of patience regarding truce violations in Syria. The ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States in February doesn’t include Al-Nusra Front and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions, as well as other formations considered to be terrorists by the United Nations Security Council.

"Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite. In fact, it is very limited with whether or not Assad is going to be held accountable," Kerry said last Wednesday. "It is very clear that the cessation of hostilities is frayed and at risk, and that it is critical for a genuine cessation to be put in place."

In response to Kerry's statement, the head of the Russian General Staff warned it is, in fact, Russia that is growing impatient with the US over Washington's refusal to cooperate.

"If anyone’s patience on Syria is waning, it is ours, not the United States. We are in full compliance with our obligations to maintain the ceasefire and ensure national reconciliation in Syria. The American side always has problems with the ‘opposition under its control’," Gerasimov said.

"Our US partners are still undecided where there are opposition forces and where there are ‘turncoats’ from international terrorist organizations."

READ MORE: Washington won’t map areas of Syria controlled by US-backed opposition – Russian MoD

Russia has for months been urging Washington to produce a shared map of the positions of fighting forces to avoid incidents and prevent targeting those groups fighting IS and Jibhat Al Nusra in Syria. The US hasn’t shared those coordinates.

"As a result, terrorists in Syria are actively regrouping and tensions are soaring again. It cannot continue this way indefinitely," Grasimov said, adding that the Russian Defense Ministry has supplied the US with a list of its terrorist targets for three months.

Gerasimov went on to blame the US for double standards concerning what constitutes ceasefire violations.

"In their opinion missile bombardments of Syrian government troops and communities by militants should be considered by all as ‘insignificant violations’ of the ceasefire. But any proportionate response to the militants by the Syrian military are at once declared as disproportionate strikes on the opposition," Gerasimov said.

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Putin Criticizes Turkish Authorities for Collaboration with Jihadists

Moscow, Apr 14 (Prensa Latina) President Vladimir Putin deplored on Thursday, during the annual program ''Hotline'', dedicated to answering questions from the population, Turkey's collaboration with Islamic extremists, and warned that there is, in fact, a civil war in the south of the country.

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Assad says Erdogan's army fighting in Syria

The army of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is currently fighting in Syria, but the country is ready to respond to the aggression, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an exclusive interview with Sputnik.
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