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Russia's Strike Aircraft Leave Syria

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian Military General Staff (background center), speaks to the media in Moscow, March 18, 2016. The screen shows an aerial image of an airstrike during the attack of Russian warplanes in Syria.

Russia has removed most of its strike aircraft from Syria and has curtailed airstrikes there this week, according to a U.S. military official.

"The majority, if not all, of their strike aircraft have left," Colonel Pat Ryder, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Central Command that oversees operations in the Middle East, told Pentagon reporters Friday.

Ryder said the Russian military still has helicopters and transport aircraft in Syria, along with ground forces.

In an email to VOA, Ryder said he received information Friday afternoon indicating that Russia did not conduct airstrikes in northern Syria this week but did carry out some airstrikes near the southern city of Palmyra in support of Syrian troops fighting Islamic State militants.

Earlier Friday, however, Ryder had told VOA and other reporters at the Pentagon there had been no Russian airstrikes in the country this week, saying Russia's strikes countering the Islamic State around Palmyra and the town of Tadmur had been carried out "via artillery systems," not aircraft.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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