Russia's first Syria air strike 'kills 36 civilians'

Russia's first Syria air strike 'kills 36 civilians'

WASHINGTON - The White House said Wednesday it was too soon to say what Russian warplanes were targeting in Syria, or what may have actually been hit, when Moscow carried out its first strikes in the war-torn country.

The White House says it is too soon to say what Russian warplanes were targeting in Syria, or what may have actually been hit, when Moscow carried out its first strikes in the war-torn country

Spokesman Josh Earnest said it was "too early for me to say what target they were aiming at and what targets were hit."

Earlier, a US defence official said the strikes had targeted opposition forces, and not Islamic State jihadists, as Moscow has said.

The Russian air strike killed 36 civilians, including five children, in the central Syrian province of Homs, the head of Syria's main opposition group said.

"The Russians struck northern Homs today and killed 36 innocent people... who fought against extremism," said Khaled Khoja, head of the National Coalition, in an interview.

The opposition had received the names of all 36 victims, including five children from Homs, and were waiting detailed reports from elsewhere, Khoja said.

Russian warplanes carried out strikes in three Syrian provinces along with regime aircraft on Wednesday, its first military engagement outside the former Soviet Union since the occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.

The raids were carried out as Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to steal US President Barack Obama's thunder by pushing a rival plan to defeat Islamic State militants in Syria.

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