Islamic State claims killing Russian soldiers at Palmyra


Gear purportedly from a killed Russian soldier at Palmyra

As fighting between the Islamic State and Syrian regime forces continue around the ancient city of Palmyra (or Tadmur in Arabic), the jihadist group’s Aamaq News Agency has claimed that five Russian soldiers were executed in recent days. To prove this, the news outlet has posted photos from one of the slain Russian soldier’s phones. Aamaq News is linked to the Islamic State and often provides reliable information about the group’s local and international operations.

The photos show the soldier posing in various places in Syria, both by himself and with other members of his unit. In a video released earlier today, Aamaq News shows a killed Russian soldier and his gear. The camera then zooms in on the soldier’s equipment, which includes Russian markings. In addition to the five Russians, Aamaq also claims Islamic State fighters executed several members of Hezbollah and “other Shiite militias.”

The Islamic State took full control of the city after a week-long offensive last May. At least 462 civilians, 241 government troops, and 150 Islamic State fighters were killed in the fighting in and around Palmyra over a three week period after May 13, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The jihadist group also took over several nearby towns and the Jazal oil field. [For more on this, see LWJ report, Islamic State seizes Syrian city of Palmyra.]

The Islamic State is not the first jihadist group to claim to have battled Russian troops in Syria. In November, a Chechen al Qaeda-ally, Ajnad Kavkaz, claimed to have captured “spoils” from Russian troops after battles in the northwestern province of Latakia. (See Threat Matrix report, Chechen group says it took ‘spoils’ from Russian forces in Syria.)

Photos allegedly from the slain Russian soldier’s phone:





Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • Donny Duke says:

    “Ideologies are not defeated with guns, they are defeated by better ideas, a more attractive and more compelling vision.” Obama

    “Breaking up the religious discourse and setting it on the right course is more important by far than suppressing the extremist groups militarily.” Hisham al-Hashemi

    I’d doubt either of the two above or even most people really want better ideas or religious discourse set on the right track. The best idea we have is human unity, and all the compassion, cooperation and peace that entails, and if religion were set right, any and all religion, it would have unity with God and all things as its soul, since God is all things and has set our souls to flame. Each and every one of us are like IS in that we divide people into good and bad, are good only to the good, bad to the bad. Can I show you our barbarity? Will you kill me for it?

  • Au-Yeong SK says:

    This is the first time I’ve seen an AK-74M so seriously pimped up. Check out the telescoping stock which replaced the side folding solid original, rail fore grips and custom trigger group.

  • Archie says:

    Possible Russian special forces operating in a ‘normal’ Russian unit?
    Or posing as PMC? The gear and comms look somewhat more specialized.

  • tuffsnotenuff says:

    More to the point is artillery. Russian artillery is in operation all across the western Syrian combat zones. Moscow had given Hafez al-Assad post-WW II military hardware in the 1970s and trained the Syrian gunners to a level of proficiency that matched Soviet standards. Now those M46 howitzers have been “refueled” 2015/2016 with shiploads of munitions including many 130mm shells. Critically, drones from Russia and Iran are in the air in Syria 24/7.

    DAESH/Nusrah/Brotherhood units have captured a number of these artillery pieces over the years. But they lack skills and are limited mostly to straight-line over the barrel sighting. DAESH does better with their 20mm/23mm anti-aircraft guns. Their long range artillery is limited to mortars.

    Professionals with GPS/drone targeting vs. amateurs.

    130mm howitzer with an easy 20km range vs. 120mm mortar shooting blind for a max of 10km. And the government has all the ammo it needs to deliver howitzer barrages at will.

    Airstrikes? Who needs air strikes? These battles resemble Third Army rolling in on the flank to relieve Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Similar equipment lists. German forces in that battle lacked for skilled artillerymen and for communications gear same as DAESH/Nusrah/Brotherhood. Gen. Patton had spotters out with maps and binoculars, almost as accurate as today’s GPS-enabled drones. (Tough on the spotters.)

  • Jon Z says:

    Camera phones are sometimes a liability. This is why some communities are pretty strict on restricting access to them and their use in the field. Of course other parts of similar communities use them at will and simply trust they will be used responsibly. In either case, I hope these photos don’t lead to any second or third order effects for the families involved.

  • David Roberts says:

    It sounds like the Russian withdrawal is not as extensive as the media would have liked us to believe. In fact, ISW says that all they’ve taken out of the country so far is about 15-20 planes that they were no longer using.

    This type of misleading public announcement of a treaty or withdrawal has been used by Russia previously to good effect in the Ukraine. They claim to have withdrawn, or agreed to a peace proposal, only to reposition their forces for the next phase of operations.

  • ulises says:


  • Myrddin says:

    ‘Aamaq News Agency has claimed that five Russian soldiers were executed in recent days’

    I hope that translation is carefully checked, because it implies that prisoners were taken and murdered by IS – again.

    The fighting around Palmyra must be pretty intense and chaotic too, if the Russkies were overrun and captured by an Islamic State supposedly on the back foot ? A sad and sobering commentary for the West to reflect on as to just how difficult these operations must be.

  • Robert Finke says:

    Based on the fifth photo of the “blue badge with a bat on it” is indicative of a Russian GRU Military Intelligence Spetsnaz Recon Unit. It is obvious that the dead Spetsnaz soldier didn’t practice OPSEC!

  • Wayne Jones says:

    The US does it everyday…and by that I mean break treaties while working in the background.

  • Wayne Jones says:

    Ya I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. They dictated the course of how things would be played out and did more damage to everyone in half a year than NATO in 4 years.

  • BobSays says:

    That is engineer adviser – a sapper’s – equipment, military engineer directing removal of mines and IED’s. The Russians should actually be heralded for doing this nasty task. Demining Syrian towns from the ISIs/Nusra jihadists who leave booby traps in building and houses and mines in roads when they forced to retreat. No one else is doing this job and in fact, it is Saudi and Turkey that are directly responsible for abetting the very terrorists that mine towns as nasty surprise for incoming SAA soldiers and Syrian civilians.


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