FILE- In this March 1, 2013 file photo, anti-Syrian President Bashar Assad protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag, as they shout slogans during a demonstration, at Kafranbel town, in Idlib province, northern Syria. Insurgent groups like Hezbollah and the Islamic State group in Syria have learned how to weaponize surveillance drones and use them against each other, adding a new twist to the country's civil war, a U.S. military official and others say.
Instead, Russia sent its defence minister to Iran's capital Tehran to take part in talks with his Syrian and Iranian counterparts. It is providing heavy air power to Syrian ground troops and their Iranian allies as they advance towards ISIL's self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa city. A few days earlier, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would be providing the "most active" air support for Syrian ground troops, while Anatoly Antonov, Russia's deputy defence minister, said the Syrian army should be provided with more assistance since it is "fighting terrorism". Russia has always tried to balance its military action with its efforts to push forward a political settlement.
A senior Egyptian al-Qaida figure fighting in Syria was killed in a U.S. drone strike this week, the latest to be killed in such attacks in Syria, a Syrian opposition monitoring group and relatives said Friday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Rifai Ahmad Taha was killed in a strike Tuesday in the northwestern Idlib province. The Observatory's chief Rami Abdurrahman said several al-Qaida members, including Taha, were killed in Tuesday's strike. Taha's relative said dozens of members of Islamic groups were paying condolences Friday to the family at the home of his brother, Gharib, in the southern Egyptian village of Nagaa Dunqal.