Moscow (AFP): Russia on Friday denied that one of its air raids hit a dazed and bloodied Syrian boy whose heart-wrenching photograph has drawn worldwide attention.
The defence ministry issued an official denial that it carried out a strike on eastern Aleppo on Wednesday evening when the images of four-year-old Omran were taken.
“The Russian planes operating in Syria never work on targets that are inside settled areas,” ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
The photographer who shot the video for Aleppo Media Centre, a network of activists, told AFP he took the images after an air strike on Wednesday night hit the Qaterji neighbourhood in eastern Aleppo.
Konashenkov said Qaterji was particularly out of bounds for Russian strikes because it adjoins two of the humanitarian corridors Moscow has opened for residents to flee.
He branded Western media reports on Omran as a “cynical exploitation” of the tragic situation in eastern Aleppo and “cliched anti-Russian propaganda”.
He suggested the attack could have been carried out by rebels in Aleppo using homemade rockets to target roads close to the humanitarian corridors to undermine Russia’s efforts.
He also suggested however that the area where Omran was may not have been bombed at all, citing footage of unbroken windows.
“If a strike really did take place,” he said, it was not an aerial strike but either a gas cylinder “used in large quantities there by terrorists” or a mortar shell.
Russia said Thursday that its strikes by warplanes based in Iran hit areas held by the Islamic State jihadist group in Deir Ezzor province, the third day of raids from the Hamedan base.