ISIS captured anti-aircraft weapons, top US general says

A new terror threat? The US is closely monitoring Palmyra, where ISIS has gained access to air-defense weapons.

The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group gained control of military equipment and weapons, possibly including air defense equipment, when they recaptured the Syrian town of Palmyra, the top US general leading the fight against ISIS told reporters on Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said Russian forces and the Syrian government took their eye off the ball and lost Palmyra and will likely try to take it back again. But if they don’t, he said, the US-led coalition will take action, particularly if insurgents start moving weapons out of the city.

“Anything they seize poses a threat to the coalition, but we can manage those threats and we will,” Townsend said, adding that ISIS likely has some armored vehicles, various guns and other heavy weapons there.

Townsend said he anticipates that the coalition will have opportunities soon to strike the equipment and kill the terrorists operating it. “We will strike it if we see it moving away from Palmyra,” he said. “I think … as long as it stays in Palmyra, the Russians will have the lead and the regime will have the lead to deal with that.”

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The coalition routinely communicates with Russia to reduce the risk of aircraft colliding in the skies above Syria. If the coalition decides to take action around Palmyra, Townsend said, the Russians will be notified to avoid any potential mishaps in the air.

The Russians ‘Took Their Eye Off the Ball’

ISIS retook Palmyra from Syrian troops on Sunday, scoring a major advance by taking advantage of the Syrian and Russian focus on Aleppo. Palmyra was taken over by ISIS last year and controlled it for 10 months, during which it blew up ancient temples and other historic objects. Nine months ago Russian and Syrian forces regained the city amid much fanfare.

“I think they failed to consolidate their gains and they got distracted by the things they were doing, took their eye off the ball there. The enemy sensed weakness and struck and gained a victory that I think will probably be fleeting,” said Townsend. “I think this is probably an embarrassment to them (the Russians).”

Townsend explained that the complicating factor in any coalition attack on the city is that it’s difficult to tell Syrian government and Russian forces from ISIS forces there. He said the US is staying out of it for now, giving Russia time to sort it out.

By: AP