As cruise missiles were launched toward Islamic State (Isis) positions in Syria by a Russian submarine in the Mediterranean on 8 December, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his "hope" that nuclear weapons would not be needed to fight the terrorist group.
At a meeting in Moscow, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that the Rostov-on-Don submarine's 3M-54 Kalibr missiles successfully struck targets in the IS (Daesh) stronghold of Raqqa. Putin said that the missiles can be equipped with both conventional and nuclear warheads "which, I hope, will never be needed", Russia Today reported.
Shoigu also said that Tu-22 bombers flying from their base in Russia had taken part in 60 combat raids in the last three days. He said that among targets destroyed were Isis oil facilities, munitions factories and munitions depots. US officials confirmed to AP that their military had been been informed of the attacks before they took place.
Russia has been carrying out air strikes against forces opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since September, claiming that its operations are focussed on eliminating the Isis terrorist group. The US, which is also carrying out air strikes against Isis claims Russia has mostly targeted other rebel groups opposed to Assad.
IS fighters and leaders hate the word - it's an Arabic acronym of "al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa ash-Sham" – meaning the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams – but when spoken Daesh sounds similar to the Arabic words translating to "the sowers of discord" (Dahes) or "one who crushes underfoot" (Daes). IS threatened "to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh, instead of referring to the group by its full name".