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Russia Says It Killed Kazakh IS Commander, Hundreds Of Fighters In Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin has that as many as 10,000 people from the former U.S.S.R. may have joined the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq. (file photo)

Russia claims it has killed a Kazakh militant it says was an important commander in the forces of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told reporters in Moscow on October 3 that the man he identified by the nom de guerre Abu Islam al-Qazaqi was among seven IS commanders killed by Russian air strikes in Syria in the previous 48 hours.

Konsahenkov said that the air strikes, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, killed 304 militants and wounded more than 170. The figures could not be independently confirmed.

Konashenkov said the dead included 40 IS militants from Russia's North Caucasus region.

He did not give the alleged Kazakh fighter's real name.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this year that as many as 10,000 people from the former Soviet Union may have joined the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq.

Syria is embroiled in a civil war that that has lasted more than six years and killed more than 330,000 people. It has also forced an estimated 5 million more to flee across borders to become refugees.

Russia has backed President Bashar al-Assad's government throughout the war, and stepped up its involvement by launching a campaign of air strikes in September 2015. It has also increased its military presence on the ground.

Iran also backs Assad's government. Turkey and the United States -- which is leading a coalition against IS and in the past has accused Russia of primarily targeting other opponents of Assad rather than IS -- back rebel groups.

Also on October 3, IS claimed responsibility for a pair of suicide bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed 17 civilians and security forces the previous day.

IS seized large parts of northern Syria and Iraq in 2014.

With reporting by AP, TASS, and Interfax
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