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Russian military have foiled attempted suicide bombings on busses carrying militants and their families withdrawing from the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed on March 29.
“We get information from ordinary people every day,” he said. “We received a report on provocations involving suicide bomber belts four days ago. It suggested the suicide bombers would be placed to the busses carrying the refugees.”
Russian military found seven belts on March 26, 32 belts on March 27 and nine belts on March 28.
Syrian pro-government activists believe that members of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda), which are a part of the evacuation deal, may have been behind the attempted suicide bombings clearly aimed at sabotaging the ongoing evacuation agreement.
According to the Russian Defense Minister, a total of 11 thousand militants and 19 thousand members of their families have been moved from the area under an evacuation deal. Over 130 thousand civilians have left East Ghouta to the government-held areas.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added that “about 90 percent of Eastern Ghouta is already under control of government forces.”
However, the district of Douma still remains in the hands of the Jaish al-Islam militant group.
On the same day, units of the Russian Military Police was redeployed in the city of Tell Rifaat and the Menagh airbase, southeast of the Turkish-occupied area of Afrin, according to several Turkish and Syrian opposition sources.
If the deployment is confirmed, this will mean that Russia is set to prevent any further Turkish advances in the area despite remarks by Turkish President Erdogan that Turkish forces are set to capture the Tell Rifaat.
In the province of Deir Ezzor, the Syrian Army and the National Defense Forces, backed up by Liwa al-Quds, launched a security operation against remaining ISIS cells in the area south of al-Mayadin. The operation is likely a response to the increased activity of the terrorist group in eastern Syria.
ISIS is still capable of using the Syrian-Iraqi border area for its illegal activity and conducting hit and run attacks, which are mostly focused on Iraqi and Syrian government forces.