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Women and children killed in suspected Russian bombings on Islamic State

The bombings come ahead of talks aimed at finding a peace settlement.

Russian war planes near Syria.
Russian war planes near Syria.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

SUSPECTED RUSSIAN BOMBS killed 47 civilians in war-ravaged eastern Syria, amid reports US forces are building up an air base to bolster their fight against jihadists further north.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats scrambled to resolve the key question of who will represent Syria’s opposition at crucial talks next week aimed at ending the nearly-five year war.

In eastern Syria, the 47 civilians were killed in air strikes suspected to have been carried out by Russian warplanes on a jihadist-held village.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine children and two women were among the dead in Khasham, which is controlled by the Islamic State group.

The village is in Syria’s oil-rich Deir Ezzor province, where IS has sought to advance in recent days despite a barrage of Russian and Syrian government air strikes.

The week-long IS offensive on the provincial capital has left nearly 500 people dead and sparked fears of mass killings among the 200,000 people still living there.

IS declared a self-styled “caliphate” in 2014 across swathes of Syria and Iraq, imposing its ultra-conservative interpretation of Islamic law there.

In Syria, it is under fire by the government and Damascus’s long-time ally Russia, as well as a US-led coalition also battling the jihadists in Iraq.

‘Ready to be used’

To bolster their fight against the group, US special forces deployed in Syria are building up an airbase in the northeast, sources told AFP.

A Syrian military source said nearly 100 “American experts” and Syrian Kurdish militia were almost done outfitting Rmeilan airfield in Hasakeh province.

“The airbase will be used for helicopters and cargo planes. Its strip is now 2,700 metres (yards) long and is ready to be used by planes that will transport equipment and ammunition,” the source added.

A security source in northeast Syria said “American special forces and advisers are using the Rmeilan airport as a base, from where helicopters are taking off towards the fronts”.

The Pentagon said the US had “not taken control” of any airfield in Syria.

© – AFP 2016

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