Russia holds off on airstrikes against al Nusra Front | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 25.05.2016
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Middle East

Russia holds off on airstrikes against al Nusra Front

Moscow has halted its bombing of al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra Front in Syria, in order to allow other rebel groups to move clear of its positions. The US said there was "commingling" among al Nusra and rebels.

Russian military decided to suspend its bombing of the Nusra Front after pleas from several other groups near Nusra forces, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Wednesday.

Around 10 factions asked Moscow "not to conduct strikes until their demarcation with terror group Nusra Front is completed," he said.

Russia has insisted that its recent airstrikes targeted only Nusra and "Islamic State" jihadis, both of which are excluded from the shaky truce currently in force in Syria.

However, many other rebel groups complain that the Russians target them too, despite their participation in the ceasefire deal. By halting the bombing, Russia aims to determine which rebel groups control which areas, according to Konashenkov.

Terrorists and freedom fighters

On Monday, the US State Department admitted there was "a certain amount of commingling" between the Nusra Front and other factions that had signed up for the ceasefire.

It was "vital that they separate themselves so that we can clearly delineate where Nusra is and where the credible opposition is," spokesman Mark Toner said.

Moscow and Washington have long clashed over which groups on the ground are to be considered moderate and could be included in the peace process.

However, both countries have recently warned that any parties breaking the truce or blocking aid deliveries would face consequences.

dj/sms (Reuters, dpa, Interfax)

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