Russia claims that it has hit Islamic State (Isis) targets in Syria for the first time after launching missiles from a submarine stationed in the Mediterranean. In a televised meeting, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told president Vladimir Putin that extensive damage was done to IS infrastructure.
"The targets were two large terrorist positions in the territory of Raqqa [IS' de-facto capital in Syria]," Shoigu told Putin. "We can say with complete confidence that fairly serious damage was done to weapons stores and a factory for preparing mines and, naturally, oil infrastructure." He added that both the US and Israel had been alerted about the missile strike in advance and this was confirmed by US Defence Department press secretary, Peter Cook.
"As a result of the successful launches by the aviation and submarine fleet, all targets were destroyed," Shoigu said. "The Calibre cruise missile once again showed its effectiveness over long distances." The defence minister said that over the past three days, more than 300 sorties hitting some 600 targets were conducted over Syria by the Russian air force.
Russia began conducting air strikes in Syria on 30 September following a request from the war-torn country. It came under strong criticism from the international community, with the US saying that a large majority of Moscow's strikes were aimed at moderate Syrian opposition and not IS. Just weeks after entering the conflict, a Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb, killing all 224 people on board.
Russia deployed Caliber cruise missiles from the submarine and Putin said they could be equipped with nuclear warheads, but added that he hoped they would "never be needed in the fight against terrorism". Since 5 December, Russia has launched 1,920 strikes against militants, according to Sputnik News. "Seventy command centers, 21 training camps, six munitions and explosives plants, 43 munitions depots and six oil objects were destroyed," the state-owned agency quoted Russia's defence ministry as saying.