Russia strike kills 36 civilians: Syria opposition chief

Syrian Opposition Council President Khaled Khoja speaks in Moscow on August 13, 2015 (AFP Photo/Kirill Kudryavtsev)
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New York (AFP) - A Russian air strike Wednesday killed 36 civilians, the head of Syria's main opposition group told AFP, as he accused Moscow of seeking to strengthen the regime.

Khaled Khoja, head of the Western-backed National Coalition which includes opposition groups and fighters, said that local activists and council members had given the names of 36 people who died in the central province of Homs, among them five children.

"All of the casualties were civilians," Khoja said in an interview in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

"So it was very obvious that the Russian intervention was to support the regime, to support more killings inside Syria, and will create a more chaotic atmosphere," he said.

He warned that the intervention would spark a "war of liberation" against Russia and Iran, the main foreign supporters of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

Khoja said that Russia had carried out 20 strikes in Syria and that he was waiting for information from other areas.

Russia's strikes in three Syrian provinces mark Moscow's first military intervention outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan that ended in 1989 under an onslaught from Islamic rebels.

Moscow said that it targeted "terrorists" in Syria, where ruthless movements such as the Islamic State group have emerged amid the brutal conflict.

Khoja said that Russia was duplicitous by recently speaking of a diplomatic solution.

"The Russians were talking about political settlement but it's clear now that they were using their political approach in order to cover military intervention in Syria," Khoja said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had spoken of cooperation during a meeting Monday with US President Barack Obama.

Khoja said that Russia had also appeared "a bit more flexible" when he went in August to Moscow and met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

"Today's strike showed that the Russians were lying to us," he said.

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