Fearing Russian Air Strikes, ISIS Skips Friday Prayers

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MOSCOW: Activists say the Islamic State group did not hold Friday prayers in its de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria, fearing Russian air strikes. 

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a drone carried out strikes on an IS-run camp near Raqqa on Friday. It had no word on casualties. 

The Observatory said air raids near Raqqa Thursday killed 12 extremists including a Tunisian and an Iraqi. 

Syrian activists say warplanes believed to be Russians have attacked a central town that was recently captured by the Islamic State group. The Britain-based group  said that air raids on Qaryatain occurred before midnight Thursday. 

Qaryatain, a key town in central Syria, was captured by the extremist group in August, following clashes with Syrian army. Syria-based activist Bebars al-Talawy said on Friday that the air raids were carried out by Russian warplanes, adding that there were no casualties. 

The Russian defence ministry says its aircraft have carried out 18 sorties in Syria in the past 24 hours, including 10 overnight in which seven sites were bombed. The ministry said all of the targets belonged to the Islamic State group, although Russian officials have acknowledged that other unidentified groups have previously been targeted as well. 

Since the airstrikes began Wednesday, Russian jets have primarily bombed central and northwestern Syria, regions that are the gateway to government strongholds in Damascus and the coast. 

Friday’s statement said the latest wave of airstrikes destroyed a command post near Daret Azzeh in the Aleppo region and hit a field camp near Maaret al-Numan in the Idlib region, wiping out bunkers and weapons stores. 

Also in Idlib, the strikes destroyed a temporary warehouse and major arms depot, the statement said. Idlib region is controlled by a coalition of rebel groups that includes the al-Qaida-linked Jabbat al-Nusra. 

In the Hama region, jets destroyed a command post and dozens of heavy weapons near the town of Kfar Zeita. —Agencies

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