Russia again accuses U.S. of aiding, training militants in Syria

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  Dec. 27, 2017 at 12:47 PM
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Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Russia on Wednesday again accused the United States of training and supporting militant fighters in Syria.

The latest denunciation came from Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Russian General Staff chief. He said U.S. forces are training fighters, including former Islamic State troops who escaped from their former stronghold in Raqqa, at a U.S. base in Tanf.

"According to space and other types of surveillance data, there are militant units [at the Tanf base]. They are, in fact, training there. They are de-facto IS, but after they are worked on, they change colors and rename themselves the 'New Syrian Army,' or otherwise," Gerasimov said.

He cited a BBC report that said a secret U.S.-led coalition allowed the IS members to escape after Raqqa was liberated. Gerasimov added that another training facility, at Al-Shaddadah, was also in operation.

The accusations come after Russia Defense Minister Segey Shoigu said that Russia has begun forming a "permanent presence" at two military bases in Syria. Russia has two Syrian bases, at Tartus and Hmeymim.

"We have started forming a permanent grouping there," Shoigu said on Tuesday.

Russia regularly accuses the United States of helping militias hostile to the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally.

Last month, Moscow cited photographic evidence of troop movements to a U.S. base it said was "irrefutable proof." The images were later revealed to be from the video game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron.

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