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Russian air strikes 'kill 21 Islamic State fighters' in Syrian desert

Russian jets launched 130 air strikes over 24 hours according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
Russian air power has backed Syrian forces clashing with Islamic State fighters (AFP)

Russia launched at least 130 air strikes in Syria over the past 24 hours, killing at least 21 Islamic State (IS) fighters, according to a UK-based activist group on Saturday. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Russian onslaught followed a series of IS attacks on Friday that killed at least eight members of a militia fighting to support the Syrian government. 

The air strikes focused on a vast desert area stretching from the central province of Homs to the border with Iraq that has recently become the focal point of increasingly frequent fighting between IS and Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air power.

Despite having lost the large areas of territory it had controlled since 2014, IS has continued to launch attacks in the Badia desert area.

More than 1,300 government troops have been killed in such clashes since late March 2019, as well as 145 pro-Iran militia members and more than 750 IS fighters, according to the Observatory.

Russian raids in the desert region generally "target small groupings of IS militants as well as their vehicles," said Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Observatory.

"It is a difficult operation for the Russians because there are no fixed positions for IS fighters who are always on the move," he told AFP.

Since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, more than 387,000 people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.

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