NEW: Russia says previous 24 hours of airstrikes killed 200 militants, including two ISIS commanders
A top Iranian military commander has been killed by ISIS in Syria, Iranian media report
Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani was a former commander in the Iran-Iraq War in '80s
A top Iranian military commander has been killed by ISIS in Syria, where he was advising the Syrian army in its fight against extremists, Iranian state media reported Friday.
Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani, a former commander in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, was killed Thursday night outside Aleppo during an attack by ISIS, Iran’s semiofficial FARS News Agency reported.
Hamadani was there “to render military advice to the Syrian army and popular forces in their fight” against ISIS, the agency reported.
One of the Syrian regime’s strongest allies, Iran admits to having military advisers to aid Syrian government forces in the country’s civil war, which has killed more than 300,000 people in four years.
Iranian media carried messages of condolence from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who described Hamedani’s death as a big loss and applauded the senior commander for his bravery in protecting Shiite holy sites.
France strikes ISIS
News of the veteran commander’s death came as the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict grows ever more complex due to foreign intervention.
The French military carried out airstrikes overnight against ISIS targets in Raqqa, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian tweeted Friday.
Last month, France announced it would expand its campaign against ISIS, which had been limited to Iraq, to include ISIS positions in Syria. France’s first strikes were carried out in late September.
The move came a day after the Syrian regime, emboldened by the critical support of Russia, announced it had “launched a wide-scale offensive” aimed at “eliminating the terrorist groups and liberating the areas and towns that have suffered from terrorism and its crime,” according to Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, the Syrian army chief of staff.
Russian targets questioned
Syrian government forces had appeared on the ropes earlier this year, but Russian intervention has dramatically altered the balance of power in the conflict.
Russia’s defense ministry said Friday its air forces have carried out 67 combat sorties in Syria over the past 24 hours, killing 200 militants, including two ISIS commanders.
Targets included “command and communication centers, ammunition and fuel depots, as well as training bases of terrorists in the provinces Raqqa, Lattakia, Hamah, Idlib and Aleppo,” the defense ministry said via Facebook.
Also, the ministry said, KAB-500S high-precision bombs were used to destroy the headquarters of the Liwa al-Haqq rebel group. This group is known to fight against ISIS.
Russia has said it is targeting ISIS, al-Nusra Front and “other terrorist groups” as recognized by the U.N. Security Council or Russian law. But the United States and other players have questioned Russia’s targets, suggesting they were not primarily aimed at ISIS but the Syrian opposition in a bid to strengthen the Syrian government’s position.
CNN’s Don Melvin, Marilia Brocchetto and Andrew Carey contributed to this report