Amnesty: Russian airstrikes in Syria killed 200 civilians; possible war crimes

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Dec. 23, 2015 at 7:36 AM
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MOSCOW, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Amnesty International has criticized Russia for conducting airstrikes in Syria that allegedly killed at least 200 civilians within two months.

Although Moscow insists it only targets "terrorist" groups, the human rights organization accuses Russia of using cluster bombs in civilian areas, which could constitute war crimes. As an ally to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia deems both the Islamic State and rebel groups opposing Assad as "terrorists."

"Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and caused massive destruction in residential areas, striking homes, a mosque and a busy market, as well as medical facilities, in a pattern of attacks that show evidence of violations of international humanitarian law," Amnesty International wrote in its "Syria: Russia's Shameful Failure to Acknowledge Civilian Killings" report.

Amnesty said it researched more than 25 Russian airstrikes in the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, Homs and Latakia between Sept. 30 and Nov. 29. The group said it conducted phone and Internet interviews with witnesses, and had audio and video evidence

In six attacks, dozens of civilians were killed but there were no obvious military targets nearby, according to Amnesty.

"Some Russian airstrikes appear to have directly attacked civilians or civilian objects by striking residential areas with no evident military target and even medical facilities, resulting in deaths and injuries to civilians," Philip Luther, Amnesty International's director of the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement. "Such attacks may amount to war crimes."

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Ministry of Defense is investigating the report's accuracy.

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