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Russia claims US led drone attack on Russian air base in Syria

The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is the Army’s largest unmanned aircraft system. (U.S. Army/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia has alleged that a U.S. military aircraft had taken control of drones over western Syria in January and attempted to have them attack the Russian military base there.

Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin said on October 25 that 13 drones were heading toward the Hmeimim air base in Latakia Province when a U.S. Poseidon-8 intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean Sea “took control” of them, according to Russian news agencies.

Fomin added that the drones were destroyed before they could reach their target.

The minister did not say who the drones belonged to or when the alleged incident happened.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described the allegation as “very alarming.”

U.S. officials did not immediately comment on the claim, but the Pentagon had rejected previous Russian insinuations that U.S. forces played a role in drone attacks against Russia’s air base and its naval facility in Tartus, which is also located in western Syria.

In January, the Russian Defense Ministry said militants had used 13 armed drones to attack the two facilities.

The attack overnight on January 5-6 was repelled, with the unmanned aerial vehicles being shot down or forced to land without inflicting any casualties or damage, it said.

The ministry also noted the “strange coincidence” of a U.S. Poseidon P-8 flying over the Mediterranean near Hmeimim and Tartus at the moment of the attacks.

A Pentagon spokesman at the time said that “any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”