(Reuters) – Russian and Syrian forces have killed 20 Islamic militants in an operation in southern Syria, including those responsible for blowing up a troop bus, a Russian officer was quoted as saying late on Sunday.
Major General Oleg Yegorov, quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency, said the operation took place in southern Deraa province.
“The Russian group on interaction with security units of the Syrian armed forces conducted a special operation in the town of Jasim, Deraa province in the south of (Syria) to liquidate Islamic State fighters,” TASS said Yegorov told a briefing.
TASS said the fighters had been involved in the bombing of a bus last week that killed at least 18 Syrian servicemen near Damascus.
Yegorov said those killed in the operation included the organiser of the bus attack as well as others linked to Islamic State’s operations in Deraa and in Raqqa province.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports.
The bus attack was one of the deadliest in months against Syrian government troops not on an active front line. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and no comment from Syrian authorities.
A decade of conflict in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and left the country fractured. Russian forces have been in Syria since 2015, helping authorities in their drive to recapture territory held by opposition fighters.
(Reporting by Ronald Popeski; editing by Diane Craft)