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Amnesty accuses Russia of killing civilians in its Syrian air raids


Vladimir PutinAMNESTY International has alleged that about 200 civilians were killed in Russian air strikes in Syria from September 30 to November 29, this year.

Quoting witnesses, the human rights group accused Russia of using cluster bombs in civilian areas, and said such attacks could constitute war crimes.

Russia has however insisted it only targeted the positions of “terrorist” groups.

Amnesty said in its report that it was also investigating the US-led coalition air strikes in Syria.

The US has rarely acknowledged civilian deaths in its air bombardment of the so-called Islamic State (IS), which began in September 2014, although some monitoring groups have said the toll could run into hundreds.

Russia began air strikes in September this year, saying it was acting at the request of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and was targeting IS and other groups it had designated to be terrorists, some of which are backed by the West.

In the report, Amnesty said it had “researched remotely” more than 25 Russian attacks that took place in Homs, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo between 30 September and 29 November.

It had interviewed by phone or over the internet witnesses to the attacks, and had audio and video evidence, as well as “advice from weapons experts”. Amnesty said.

It said there was evidence that Russia’s military “unlawfully used unguided bombs in densely populated areas and inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions”.

A local activist group said a total of 49 civilians were either killed or missing and feared dead.

“It was a normal Sunday; there was nothing unusual. People were buying goods; children were eating,” the activist, Mohammed Qurabi al-Ghazal, told Amnesty.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the defence ministry would be looking into the accuracy of the Amnesty report.

The Kremlin has previously described similar reports as “information warfare” aimed at discrediting its operations in Syria.

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