MOSCOW – The Russian Defense Ministry says its airstrike has killed five warlords of al-Qaida's branch in Syria.
Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov in a statement Wednesday said the military targeted the warlords, who Moscow says are responsible for attacking Russian military police in Hama province last week.
Russia's presence in Syria has been expanding beyond its original role of providing cover to President Bashar Assad's offensive against Islamic State group militants.
The Russian military said the airstrike was launched after receiving intelligence about an upcoming high-level meeting of the leaders of al-Qaida's Levant Liberation Committee south of the city of Idlib. It said five warlords and 32 militants died in the airstrike, which also destroyed an ammunition depot nearby.
The ministry did not specify when the airstrike took place.