Talk:US airstrike on ISIS Hunters, February 7, 2018

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Russian contractors killed in US-led coalition strike

See also mainpage, especially Hrustalik (Polynkov), + Tsarev, Borodai

Moved from Talk:Syria news/Current

According to Strelkov source, Wagner group sustained heavy losses in the US-led coalition strike on Feb. 7. He says (on social media) that Wagner's 5th assault detachment, armored group and artillery unit were destroyed in the vicinity of the village of Khsham(Хишам, Rus.) , near Deir ez-Zor and Al Isba oil plant (google/satellite, two or more sites, on the road from Khsham to Al Isba) (No further definite factual details provided)--Resup (talk) 11:05, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

In his new post, the moment it is clear that there are hundreds of dead and wounded. A few hundred. (Some concrete initial numbers are provided but those do not appear definite, and the very latest number, exceeding the reported number of people in the convoy, appears exaggerated--unless it was not a bigger under-reported event. This latest number is 'from Syria', but can be a 'disinformation'). --Resup (talk) 20:02, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

Unconfirmed details posted by a user, said to be audio and transcript of Wagner fighters discussing the event (column attacked on march, their artillery suppressed by drones, artillery strike followed by helicopters strike (and Lockheed AC-130 Spectre, in another unconfirmed report). They did not have anti-aircraft weaponry, not even MANPADS; number of killed said to be around two hundred , all from the 5th detachment and some others too. Those details are unverified, but pretty consistent among several such sources (similar account of events also seen elsewhere). --Resup (talk) 20:55, 10 February 2018 (UTC) The user, as well as Cassad, attribute the story and audios to telegram channel of war correspondent Semen Pegov. Cassad also links "Funeral of 14 Syrians killed by US AF in Deir Ezzor" --Resup (talk) 21:37, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

Easy audio playback version is on this pro-Ukrainian youtube. Fox News report, with coalition report on the attack and air power involved, here (probably stock footage and talk)--Resup (talk) 05:19, 11 February 2018 (UTC)

Rusnext version, Много погибших: опубликована информация о массированном ударе США и курдов по позициям российских ЧВК, 10 February, 2018 (in addition to what's said elsewhere reports some numbers of Syrian casualties, said to be 30 confirmed so far, with names and photos; those details are not provided however) --Resup (talk) 08:49, 11 February 2018 (UTC)

In a rare mentioning in established media, business oriented "Vzgliad" reports a similar account based on own sources, but puts the number of killed at 15-25 , and some 50 wounded --Resup (talk) 22:25, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

Vzgliad now published Semen Pegov account (large losses).

WaPO version, 'In Syria, Russian bad faith turns fatal', by David Ignatus, Washington Post, 9 February, 2018

Implications of those events are not clear. Major Russian media does not report this, so Russia is not after an escalation. But with those details now known and broadly discussed, authorities may have to do something about it (possibly talking it down, not escalating, by capability and interests combined. But remains to be seen. --Resup (talk) 23:02, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

For some background, see here.

According to Western-owned PMC Wagner Russian contractors were originally employed in Syria around 2013 to guard oil and gas installations - except they would first have to free the installations from al-Nusra / ISIS. Moon of Alabama posted this two days ago:
Other sources say that there have been talks between Wagner and locals Arabs guarding the currently unproductive "Conoco" oil and gas field operation near the town of Khisham.
-- Petri Krohn (talk) 23:08, 10 February 2018 (UTC)

I predict 200 Americans will die in some mysterious accident. Maybe Pakistani aid defenses will shoot down a plane carrying U.S. troops or contractors to Afghanistan. Maybe an Iranian oil tanker will hit and sink a U.S. Navy ship. PMC Wagner will pay a $10 million reward to whoever caused the accident. The Russian Federation will deny all knowledge or responsibility. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 11:28, 11 February 2018 (UTC)

It's not actually clear why it happened, as there are deconflicting mechanisms, and said to be actual contacts and Western warnings prior to all this. It may be one of 3 things: (1) lack of communication (or care) between Russian MoD and PMC, inadequate preparation of PMC, etc (2) intentional, on the US-led coalition side, some sort of entrapment to continue the well-known Western line, similarly to what can be read on MoA (3) intentional, on the Russian side, similar to destruction of a Russian tank column in Groznyi which triggered an outrage in (generally, liberal) Russian government and public opinion and led to the full scale first Russian-Chechen war, although prior to that Chechen demands were quite moderate; similar theoires can be read in the present day context e.g. on and similar pro-Western Russian opposition resources. Here, possibly just trying to get control of oil resources, despite current US-Kurdish control and a deconfliction agreement in the Euphrates valley (mentioned in Tillerson speech at Hoover), not seeking a wider conflict, if possible. --Resup (talk) 13:17, 11 February 2018 (UTC)

Confirmation that at least some Russian contractors died from RIA via Fort Russ: US airstrike in Syria kills former defender of Donbass + some more names here. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 23:35, 12 February 2018 (UTC)

Russell Bentley writes on Fort Russ:

The story about “500 Russians killed” is a lie. There were about 100 soldiers killed by the US air attack, mostly Syrian Army, with about 15 to 20 Wagner contractor/advisers. And unlike the various keyboard commandos who called for the start of WW3 over the incident , I actually know what happened. A friend of mine was there, and I have seen the video. Yes, it was a treacherous and underhanded attack by the US, knowing there were Russians among the Syrian soldiers, but this provocation is not worth risking a real world war over, is it? What kind of imbecile could possibly think it would be?

-- Petri Krohn (talk) 00:50, 22 May 2018 (UTC)

That's essentially the official version of the events (due to Wagner's Troshev). I consider Hrustalik version as most likely accurate. Followed by Chervonets (who gives Syrian hospital numbers, 23 on the day, about 42 with dying soon after from wounds added). Hrustalik higher numbers appears to be counting those who was not heard back after the events (he is into search and rescue and have multiple friends affected). Tsarev and Borodai comments, while not providing the number, also indicate that losses are higher than Troshev's. (While Bentley is not giving precise number despite making a much later comment. The tone of his comment is sincere, and he does have 'skin in the game'; but also it indicates that he is greatly affected by surrounding circumstances and his role, essentially on the info-warfare front)--Resup (talk) 06:38, 22 May 2018 (UTC)

List of Russian casualties

Some deaths confirmed on social media

--Resup (talk) 21:20, 13 February 2018 (UTC)

Zakharova: 5 Russians may be killed (По предварительным данным, в результате произошедшего вооруженного столкновения, причины которого сейчас выясняются, речь может идти о гибели 5 человек, предположительно граждан России. ) More names appeared in social media(verification uncertain, as claimed by sources)

More CIT claims

  • Alexey Shihov, Nizhnii Novgorod, 13.10.91 (CIT)(el-Murid)
  • Oleg Tereschenko, 01.10.82, resident of the village of Krylov, Krasnodar Region. Killed on February 7, in Deir ez Zor (CIT) (el-Murid)(photo from here)
  • Ruslan Gavrilov (03.08.1983), the village of Kedrovoye in the Sverdlovsk Region. Killed on February 7, in Deir ez Zor (CIT)(el-Murid)
  • Vladimir 'Apostol' (CIT)

Noted: CIT once called Bellingcat their 'colleague', and claims made by them now are poorly sourced. --Resup (talk) 22:45, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

More deaths

  • Mitin Alexey Nikolaevich, Cossack from Ryazan, died in hospital from wounds received in Syria on 15 or 16 February, 2018. --Resup (talk) 15:17, 20 February 2018 (UTC)

Reported missing

Discussion of analysis

Basic facts for analysis are not established or disputed. What is known is that some pro-Assad force attacked and was hit by coalition from the air (coalition estimate is 100 killed). Former Donbass opolchenie sources (including Strelkov) made a claim that 'Russian' forces were involved in unofficial capacity and those forces sustained heavy losses (with lower yet heavy losses claimed later). Russian government maintained (both before and after the attack) that their forces, or those they control, were not involved, and sought to show that losses were much smaller than originally claimed, while accepting that some Russians could be killed. In such a set-up, it is unclear how one can actually do 'analysis', as opposed to some spin supporting a preferable conclusion or side in those claims. There is no particular need for analysis of this event as such, IMO, apart from establishing facts of this event, in as much as possible; analyzing without facts is essentially spin, and is neither predictive nor historic, so why to even do it in this way? --Resup (talk) 08:17, 16 February 2018 (UTC)

Tsarev comment: (1)makes sense (war time censorship is normal); (2) also, technically, revealing accurate info on true losses outside of the official channels (as opposed to guessing/estimating/providing an opinion/etc) will be illegal in Russia (even in peace time), as far as I recall from media coverage of this topic on a previous occasion--Resup (talk) 12:35, 17 February 2018 (UTC)


There is of course a nonzero probability that a successful fake was planted onto Strelkov, but chances of that are rather low (there would be Donbass veterans and they would know each other for a while, with a code of proper conduct, etc). It's also possible that numbers are inaccurate, like 'fog of war' thing, one detachment staying in the wait on the outskirts was dispersed by airstrike but the actual fate of those people is not exactly known. From Khrustalik interview, 11 people in/on top/near BDRM vehicle (with a standard crew of 4) were killed by the very first strike, and then some tried to disperse (including the man he interviewed), unclear how successfully.

However, there is also a very clear attempt to suppress or downplay this, (+ going after the messenger sort). Something like Southfront take on February 14, 2018, if they have an idea of realities involved here--and I assume that they do--belongs mostly to spin/propaganda, IMHO. --Resup (talk) 22:13, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

...and zero to do with Israel, Wagner (said to be after the composer) is call sign of Dmitry Utkin (said to be Ukrainian) used in Donbass, and discussed from the time his PMC was suspected of hits on popular commanders L/DPR commanders (Batman especially). In Syria, 'Wagner' is a collective name for anything similar, PMC-like, not necessarily his group in person --Resup (talk) 11:46, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

PMC Wagner = ISIS Hunters?

There is no proof that a Russian mercenary battalion ever operated on Syria, even less in Deir ez-Zor. There are no photographs of them even when we see thousands of photographs from the front lines from pro-Russian social media accounts like @IvanSidorenko1. The first time we hear of 700 Russian operating as a unit is after they have supposedly died.

ISIS Hunters is assumed to be Russian-trained and maybe partly under Russian command. There are photographs of ISIS Hunters and Russians together. It is far more likely that the few Russians involved were part of ISIS Hunters. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 14:12, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

ISIS Hunters are some local faces mostly for media presentation. Otherwise photos and videos are banned, Khrustalik interview tells that programs are installed in their (PMC's) cell phones to prevent recording. Talking to press is banned too, so no full details in those leaked accounts. PMC use in Syria is talked about well before this attack, and those few names identified as killed were there in PMC sort capacity (not a regular military, yet fighting). ISIS Hunters may be fighting too, and having losses, but in the group discussed in Russian sources there were no (or very few) Syrians --Resup (talk) 14:30, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

@IvanSidorenko1 should be the best source for information on ISIS Hunters and Russians in Syria. Today he published tens of photos from a funeral of one Orthodox Christian ISIS Hunters member. Yet he seems to have no knowledge of the 700 Russians, dead or alive. He did publish a translation of one Facebook post by Михаил Полынков, but he says his source was actually #JihadiJulian Julian Röpcke. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 19:59, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

But neither Sidorenko nor anybody else reports on the funerals of at least 5 (and more) confirmed Russian deaths. Attributing Khrustalik to Ropcke is a spin (suggesting lack of true independence, if anything). --Resup (talk) 22:13, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

This article supports the notion, that ISIS Hunters and "Wagner" are one and the same. Two other points in support: 1) ISIS Hunters said they are the only Syrian unit operating east of the Euphrates. 2) The pontoon bridge over the Euphrates was brought in from Russia and set up by Russians.

Note, that Syrians built the bridge and conquered the bridgehead before Americans captured the oil fields (or paid ISIS to hand them over). (The photo shows what looks like an ISIS Hunter patch on the uniform.) -- Petri Krohn (talk) 21:55, 18 February 2018 (UTC)

One and the same, almost, may be, but interviews with wounded, reported to be in large numbers in Russia shows that the bulk and fighting core of the group was 'Russian' (from Russia, Donbass, and more ex-USSR). At the front of assault were Donbass vets. In front of the cameras, more Syrians --Resup (talk) 23:31, 18 February 2018 (UTC)

Ivan Sidorenko on Twitter, March 3, 2018

Talked to a ISIS Hunter Soldier today and asked him what the Requirements to join ISIS hunters was and if you needed to Understand / Speak Russian to join he sent me a Audio Message that says whats in this Photo

The response says

To join? No. But if you speak Russian you could be hired as a translator. And if you want to be a fighter you'll get 600 dollars. 300 as a paycheck and 300 for your mission. ... First month you will be transferred to Intelligence branch 217. In the first 6 months you will be under tests, after these 6 months you will be under Hmeimeem's authority. The formations are ran by Abu Yusha

Ivan Sidorenko also says: The ISIS_Hunter Ggoup that is heading to Eastern_Ghouta is commanded by this guy. (Is this Abu Yusha?)

-- Petri Krohn (talk) 04:05, 4 March 2018 (UTC)

ISIS Huters are trained by Russia: see here: Around 700 of the Russian-trained group will be assisting the Syrian Army in regaining control of more territories from the Islamist insurgents. -- 18:56, 7 March 2018 (UTC)

I may not be the only one who thinks PMC Wagner = ISIS Hunters. See this discussion on Twitter. @robi_sen asks "Wow look at the belly on the guy to the right. Is a Wagner contractor?" @CzechPremysl responds: "Yes, he has flag Isis hunter" -- Petri Krohn (talk) 23:40, 16 October 2019 (UTC)

I'd say, following typical feeling on opolchenie's social media, that it is not = (maybe > is a better 1-character) . Hunters is essentially a host, trainee, and media cover, with a lot/most of the actual strength coming from behind-the-cameras PMC's; with 'Wagner' being a collective name for one or several PMC's. The latter include Wagner + ex-Donbass ("Vesna" and "Karpaty" groups mentioned by Khrustalik and co, taking losses, etc). It may also include Middle Asia/Kazakhstan people, Chechens, and internationals, but there is essentially no mentioning or discussion of those categories and it is unclear whether or not they are present. As for photos in the twit, they guy could be anybody, a Hunter, a PMC with Hunter insignia, a military journalist dressed up like that. In Manbij footage, possible guys with similar looks are: this quite-good-yet-broken-Russian guy, who may be Kazakh (ie from Kazakhstan), Middle Asian (Uzbekistan, etc) or Syrian; and Oleg Blokhin (a journalist) (not Blokhin, -there is a video showing both the bellied guy and Blokhin at the Manbij base). --Resup (talk) 04:35, 17 October 2019 (UTC)
It is said that Hunters are from those Syrians who lost a relative to the other side, so that presumably he is more trusted and relied upon in a battle. Thus likely the Hunters numbers are quite limited, and insufficient for major or multiple battles.
There are no reliable photo-visuals, apart from all but confirmed photo with the leaders, Utkin and Troshev (1, 2, 3), from a reception on 9 Dec. 2016.
--Resup (talk) 04:48, 17 October 2019 (UTC)

Subsequent reports

  • Fifteen Russian security staff killed in Syria explosion -The Guardian, February 15, 2018 (quoting SOHR, unverified)--Resup (talk) 16:56, 15 February 2018 (UTC)
  • Jonathan Mar @Jonah_AlQataal on Twitter, March 22, 2018
    BREAKING #DeirEzzor
    SAA forces + Russian forces (not known if PMC or military) crossing the Euphrates river towards positions close to Murat and Khusam village with heavy armory and vehicles were targeted by the coalition forces today at midday and destroyed all their armory.
    Presumed fake: No Russian reports seen; Inherent resolve reports those strikes on March 22: Near Abu Kamal, two strikes engaged two Daesh tactical units. Near Al Shadaddi, one strike destroyed a Daesh-held building. --Resup (talk) 20:34, 23 March 2018 (UTC)
    Turns out, 'prevented'. --Resup (talk) 02:12, 2 April 2018 (UTC)

April, 2018

(Main page). Reconnaissance-in-force? One-ear-on the deconflicting iPhone? --Resup (talk) 21:47, 30 April 2018 (UTC)

Telegram message, February 11, 2018

Several of our brothers died under the fire of the US Air Force

On the morning of February 7, ISIS Hunters received intelligence information about a group of ISIS jihadists near as-Suwar village located on the territory occupied by Kurds.

Later our command received additional information that the group is moving towards Khusham village and immediately decided to move from the Euphrates and cut off the possible direction of jihadists offensive.

A number of armed groups with mortars and technicals was spotted to the east from Khusham on the territory occupied by Kurds. SAA positions were attacked by spotted enemy and Hunters moved to cover SAA. Based on hostiles' movement and actions they didn't expect any heavy resistance. Almost immediately Hunters managed to suppress ISIS and make them retreat. (Later an intercepted radio traffic confirmed that the group was partly ISIS, partly Kurds and they retreated towards CONOCO factory)

At that moment first shells dropped, and jet fighters appeared, bombing our positions. They came from the direction where the hostiles were retreating, the jet fighters were covering the enemy.

Our people were still fighting, but when helicopters came ISIS Hunters were forced to retreat. They scattered around and came back in small groups. After bombardment finished it became clear that some of our brothers are dead… Hunters lost 20 heroes, but regular SAA units lost more men, unfortunately. Glory and peace to Syrian heroes killed by a sucker punch by US Air Forces, acting behind the backs of terrorists and Kurds.

Now we state, that Kurds are responsible for deaths of brothers! This nation has begun war against Syrian identity, occupied Syrian soil and resources belonging to Syrian people! Now they conspire with ISIS, shelter them from justice and use them against Syria. These American puppets has no longer right to occupy Syrian soil.

Since now there is no difference for us between ISIS and Kurds. Same terrorists, same attitude towards them. Kurds, be sure, ISIS Hunters are going to hunt you on Syrian soil like your ISIS mercenaries are hunted. Our brothers will be revenged!