24 MAY 2016 • 6:44PM
Dozens of Russian military vehicles and attack helicopters deployed to Syria may have have been destroyed in an apparent attack by Isil.
Images released on Tuesday by Stratfor, the American intelligence think tank, show what appear to be the blackened remains of four attack helicopters and dozens of lorries at an airbase used by Russia near the town of Tiyas.
The images appear to confirm an earlier claim by so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) that four helicopters and 20 lorries had been destroyed in a fire at the base.
That would represent Russia’s worst losses in terms of materiel since Vladimir Putin ordered intervention in Syria in September.
Russia dismissed the Isil claim as “propaganda”, said said the images showed damaged inflicted during months of heavy fighting for the base before Russian forces occupied it earlier this year.
All Russia helicopters deployed to Syria “are performing their planned missions to destroy terrorists”, said Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, a Russian military spokesman in Moscow.
“The rumours about the destruction of Russian military helicopters and two dozen lorries were authored by Isil propagandists, who unsuccessfully tried to ‘sell’ this alleged ‘news’ 10 days ago,” he said.
However, analysts at Stratfor said the new images show the Isil claims were actually “very accurate” and suggest the fire was caused by a terror attack rather than an accident.
“The imagery tells us this was not an accidental explosion. It show that the Russians took quite a bad hit. An entire helicopter unit was wiped out,” Sim Tack, an analyst at Stratfor, told the BBC.
“That first statement shows that Islamic State had the knowledge about what exactly was destroyed in the attack,” he added.
Syrian sources told Russian media that there had indeed been a fire at the base, but it was unknown what caused it. The sources said no one was hurt in the blaze.
Isil put out a statement though its affiliated al-Amaq news channel on the day of the attack on May 14, claiming a fire at the base destroyed four Russian helicopters and 20 trucks carrying rockets.
The Russians built up their presence at Tiyas, a former Syrian military air base, after the liberation of Palmyra in March. Just weeks earlier, Mr Putin had announced Moscow was winding down operations in Syria and recalled many of its aircraft.
Isil has been battling Syrian regime forces to the northwest of the ancient city for several weeks in an attempt to recapture the strategic highway that runs before Palmyra and the city of Homs to the north west.
Last week the group blew up a major gas field less than 15 miles from the base, causing an explosion so fierce it triggered a 4.4 magnitude earthquake.
The terror group has mounted a series of high profile attacks in recent weeks in an apparent bid to demonstrate it can still take the offensive despite the loss of Palmyra.
At least 148 people were killed in coordinated suicide bombings claimed by the group in government-held territory on Monday.
The attacks included blasts in the towns of Tartous, home to a Russian naval facility, and Jableh, near a Russian-operated air base.
Well this goes a long way in saying how effective Russia have been in Syria for the west and especially an esteemed institution to FAKE pictures claims of destroyed Russian helicopters.
If this story was true the Isil would have plastered it on their network!
Exactly identical areas (1st and 2nd helicopter) on May 14th photo
@IRGC_QF Here is a picture from 10th May 2016 for you. You see, no damage yet.