Russia says kamikaze drone tests in northern Syria complete amid reports of civilian deaths
Russia has officially completed testing for an unmanned kamikaze drone which it says was successfully used to strike ‘terrorist’ targets in Idlib, northern Syria on Thursday, according to reports by Russian state-owned news agencies Novosti and Russia Today.
Meanwhile, the Syrian Civil Defence, otherwise known as The White Helmets, has said kamikaze drone attacks in Idlib have killed at least three civilians and injured six since the beginning of this year.
The KYB-UAV drone was designed and developed by Russian manufacturer ZALA Aero, a subsidiary of the Kalashnikov Group. A video on the company website shows the drone self-destructing when it strikes its target, hence the moniker ‘kamikaze’ drone.
On Thursday, an anonymous source in the Russian Ministry of Defence was quoted in Novosti as saying that the KYB-UAV drone had successfully passed official military tests, adding that Russian Armed Forces would receive its first batch of the drones by 2022.
Russia Today said its own Russian sources had claimed “the drone was used by the Russian army to strike terrorist sites in northern Syria”.
However, Mohammed Rahhal, a media officer for the Syrian Civil Defence, told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that “the White Helmets responded to three drone attacks since the beginning of this year” that had killed at least three people and injured six.
Rahhal said “a woman and two other civilians were injured on 31 October in an unidentified suicide drone attack while harvesting olives in the village of Nahlia, Idlib”. It is not yet clear whether Russia was behind the attack, although civilian death monitoring group Airwars have listed the suspected attacker as the Russian Armed Forces.
Responding to these reports, Colonel Mustafa Bakour, the official spokesman for the Jaish al-Izza faction in Idlib, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the Russian had tested kamikaze drones in Hama, Syria as early as 2016, which he claimed targeted hospitals and rebel mountain bases.
“Russian military industries have benefitted from this testing and developed other forms of unmanned, self-guided drone. Russian leaders have admitted to testing more than 300 types of weapons in Syria” he added.
The KYB drone was first exhibited at international defence exhibition IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Kalashnikov group said at the time they had received interest from buyers in the Middle East.