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Western Nations Criticize Russia’s Air Campaign in Syria

In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Oct. 4, 2015, an aerial view of a bomb explosion in Syria.

In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Oct. 4, 2015, an aerial view of a bomb explosion in Syria.

Western countries are strongly criticizing Russia for the type of bombs it is reportedly using to strike Syria.

Russia began the airstrikes September 30. Western countries disputed Russia’s targets. Russia said it was bombing Islamic State militant positions. The United States and other nations said the targets were Syrian rebels and civilians who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian Defense Ministry released video recordings of Russian warplanes. Western military experts studied the recordings. They said Russia is using unguided, or dumb, bombs.

Dumb bombs are bombs that fall freely from planes. They have no guidance system. They cannot be directed once they leave the plane.

The weapons Russia uses

Elliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat, a blog site on the Internet. It reports on weapons use in the Syrian civil war and the conflict in east Ukraine's Donbas region.

Mr. Higgins said, "There are clear markings for the OFAB 250-270 unguided bombs on Russian jets in Syria."

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon has condemned the use of unguided bombs on civilian areas.

Military experts also said Russia’s campaign in Syria is similar to Syria’s air actions. The country has used low-cost, improvised devices, such as barrels filled with fuel, explosives and metal pieces. In the past year, they have used bombs that explode before hitting the ground. This causes much greater death and damage over a wider area.

Russia’s OFAB 250-270 was designed to destroy military industrial sites, railroads and to kill people on open land.

The true value of dumb bombs

Peter Quentin of the Royal United Services Institute said such weapons are used for “terrorizing a population.”

On Sunday, a Russian air force spokesman said the military was also using guided missiles in Syria. Russian media shortly after the statement released photographs of Russian warplanes carrying the missiles.

Guided bombs and missiles do not always work as planned. Accurate information about targets is important for them to work correctly. However, the use of dumb bombs sharply increases the probability of civilian injuries and death.

A Syrian group opposed to President Assad said Saturday that 39 civilians had been killed in the Russian air strikes. The group said 12 Islamic State fighters and two al-Qaida militants also had been killed. The numbers were not confirmed.

Russian bombing raids have hit several provinces since Wednesday. They centered on Idlib in the northwest and Hama in central Syria. Neither territory is controlled by the Islamic State group, the target of the air campaign, according to the Russian government.

Air space violations

NATO demanded an immediate explanation after Turkey reported Russian fighter jets had invaded its airspace many times. Turkish military planes escorted the Russian jets out on October 3 and 4.

Following the airspace violations, NATO member Turkey warned that Russia would be "responsible for any undesired incident" if another breach takes place.

NATO’s Secretary General said Monday that he met with Turkey’s Foreign Minister to discuss Russian operations in Syria.

The organization's decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, said Turkish officials repeatedly warned Russian planes to leave the airspace. It called it "irresponsible behavior" and asked Russia for an explanation.

The Russian government confirmed that it had been in the wrong airspace. A news report says a defense ministry spokesman blamed the incursion on poor weather.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver wrote this story from VOA News reports. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

dumb adj. not requiring or resulting from intelligence

improvise v. o make or create (something) by using whatever is available

barrel n. a round often wooden container with curved sides and flat ends

escort ­v. to go with (someone or something) to give protection or guidance

incursion n. a sudden invasion or attack : an act of entering a place or area that is controlled by an enemy

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