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Sirtex eyes markets in China, Japan

Cancer treatment biotech Sirtex Medical wants to expand into China and Japan.

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Sirtex Medical’s lead product is a targeted radiation therapy for liver cancer, called SIR-Spheres Y-90 resin microspheres.

The microspheres deliver substantial doses of radiation directly to inoperable cancer tumours in the liver.

A major clinical study has shown that the microspheres, when combined with standard chemotherapy, are able to hold back the growth of liver tumours.

“We continue to investigate the expansion of our innovative SIR-Spheres microspheres product into additional markets, including formulating the most appropriate entry strategies for the potentially large markets of China and Japan,” Sirtex Medical chief executive Gilman Wong said on Tuesday.

Mr Wong told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Sydney that the incidence of primary liver cancer in China was more than 10 times greater than in the United States.

The incidence of colorectal cancer was about double that of the US.

Japan the second largest medical device market in the world, was a high-priced market.

“Both markets therefore represent attractive, long-term opportunities for Sirtex,” Mr Wong said.

Sirtex also wants to extend the use of its product outside the liver and into organs such as the kidney.

Sirtex achieved record growth in dose sales of the microspheres in fiscal 2015.

“I am pleased to report that the 2016 financial year has commenced strongly, with global dose sales thus far tracking slightly ahead of our expectations,” Mr Wong said.

He said that in September Sirtex sold more than 1,000 doses globally – the first time sales had passed that level in a single month.

Sirtex generated a 69 per cent lift in net profit to $40.3 million in fiscal 2015.

Hundreds die in Afghanistan-Pakistan quake

The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centred.

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In one of the worst incidents, at least 12 girls were killed in a stampede to flee their school building in Taloqan, just west of Badakhshan province where the tremor’s epicentre was located.

“They fell under the feet of other students,” said Abdul Razaq Zinda, provincial head of the Afghan National Disaster Management Agency, who reported heavy damage in Takhar.

Shockwaves were felt in New Delhi in northern India and across northern Pakistan, where hundreds of people ran out of buildings as the ground rolled beneath them. No deaths were reported in India.

“We were very scared … We saw people leaving buildings, and we were remembering our God,” Pakistani journalist Zubair Khan said by telephone from the Swat Valley northwest of the capital Islamabad.

“I was in my car and, when I stopped my car, the car itself was shaking as if someone was pushing it back and forth.”

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No Australians seeking Asia quake help

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed it was not aware of any Australians seeking consular help after the Afghanistan-centred quake, which has toppled buildings and knocked out power.

The United States and Iran were among countries that offered to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which already depends heavily on foreign aid after decades of war that have wrecked its economy and infrastructure.

The quake was 213 km (132 miles) deep and centred 254 km (158 miles) northeast of Kabul in Badakhshan province. The U.S. Geological Survey initially measured the magnitude at 7.7, then revised it down to 7.5.

Just over a decade ago, a 7.6 magnitude quake in another part of northern Pakistan killed about 75,000 people.

Spoke to PM Nawaz Sharif & expressed condolences on the loss of lives due to the quake. Offered all possible assistance from India.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 26, 2015

In Afghanistan, where rescue and relief work is likely to be complicated by security threats created by an escalating Taliban insurgency, more than 50 people were reported dead in several provinces including Badakhshan, where hundreds were killed in mudslides last year.

Hundreds of houses were destroyed, creating additional hardship with wintry temperatures setting in.

Remote areas cut off

In Pakistan, the head of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Disaster Management Agency, Amer Afaq said the death toll had reached 167, while military spokesman General Asim Bajwa said nearly 1,000 were injured.

Officials said most of the casualties had occurred in northern and northwestern regions bordering Afghanistan and the death toll was likely to rise.

Dr. John Ebel, chairman of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Boston College in the United States, said the depth of the earthquake had limited its severity and meant damage was likely to be spread broadly rather than focused in one disaster zone.

But he said landslides on the unstable slopes of the mountainous region could pose a major problem to rescuers in the coming days.

“Obviously if a landslide comes in to a village, it will take out buildings, but landslides can also take out roads and communications and power systems, so you lose the ability to access remote areas,” he said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was ready to provide emergency shelter and relief supply kits to alleviate immediate hardship.

In Pakistan, the northern area of Chitral, where 20 people were killed, was particularly hard hit.

Journalist Gul Hammad Farooqi, 47, said his house had collapsed. “I was thrown from one side of the road to the other by the strength of the earthquake. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he said.

“There is a great deal of destruction here, and my house has collapsed, but thankfully my children and I escaped.”

Further south, the city of Peshawar reported two deaths and at least 150 injured people were being treated at the city’s main hospital, the provincial health chief said.

In Afghanistan, international aid agencies working in northern areas reported that cell phone coverage in the affected areas remained down in the hours after the initial quake.

“The problem is we just don’t know. A lot of the phone lines are still down,” said Scott Anderson, deputy head of office for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul.

Badakhshan provincial governor Shah Waliullah Adib said about 1,450 houses had been destroyed.

The earthquake struck almost exactly six months after Nepal suffered its worst quake on record on April 25. Including the toll from a major aftershock in May, 9,000 people lost their lives there and 900,000 homes were damaged or destroyed there.

The Hindu Kush mountain region is seismically active, with earthquakes the result of the Indian subcontinent driving into and under the Eurasian landmass. Sudden tectonic shifts can cause enormous and destructive releases of energy. 

The #earthquake caused panic among the residents of #NewDelhi Details: 杭州桑拿,杭州夜生活,/KneAMzko1Y pic.twitter杭州桑拿会所,/qEILi10nQx

— Khaleej Times (@khaleejtimes) October 26, 2015

Sydney man feared dead in boat sinking

An Australian man is missing feared dead and five British nationals have died after a whale watching boat sank off Vancouver Island.

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AAP has been told by the family of a Sydney man, 27, that he was on the MV Leviathan II with his girlfriend and her family when it went down.

Her father was one of five British citizens confirmed dead.

The parents of the missing Sydney man were desperately trying to arrange an emergency passport on Tuesday to travel to Canada.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was providing consular assistance.

The ages of the four men and one woman, two of whom were Canadian residents, ranged from 18 to 76.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have sent an underwater recovery team to search for the missing man, with assistance from the Coast Guard and local search and rescue personnel.

“We still remain hopeful, but we have to assume the worst,” said RCMP Corporal Janelle Shoihet.

The others onboard were rescued, some by members of the local indigenous community who rushed to help, but the cause of the sinking is not known.

The 20-metre boat sent up a flare late on Sunday afternoon on a calm, clear and sunny day 12km off Tofino, a resort town on the western edge of Canada’s Vancouver Island.

The boat, undertaking one of the last tours of the whale-watching season, capsized in waters less than 10 metres deep, raising suggestions it may have hit rocks.

Jamie Bray, the owner of the operating company, is cooperating with investigators.

“Traumatised would be an appropriate word. Disbelief,” Mr Bray told reporters of the capsizing.

The boat – which had 24 passengers and three crew – had visited the area almost every day for the past 20 years with an unblemished safety record.

“This is something just totally out of the blue,” Mr Bray said.

He said life jackets are not worn on ships that have enclosed compartments in the event of a sinking because of the difficulty they cause in trying to exit a vessel.

“On larger vessels we’re not required to have the passengers wear the life jackets. On smaller open boats they are,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed in a statement that the five killed were UK nationals.

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of all those affected by this terrible accident,” Mr Hammond said.

Marc-Andre Poisson, from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, said it was too early to say what were the causes and contributing factors.

The company has been involved in two previous incidents.

In 1998 one of its vessels capsized during an excursion, sending all four people on board into the water, resulting in the deaths of the operator and a passenger.

In 1996, a boat operator fell asleep and ran into rocks. The boat was destroyed and the operator was seriously injured but there were no passengers on board.

Warning to limit ‘carcinogenic’ red meat

Australians don’t need to stop eating red meat but should limit their intake, say experts responding to international research showing it can cause cancer.

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A World Health Organisation review has found that processed meats like sausages and ham cause bowel cancer, and red meat “probably” does too.

WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) analysed 800 studies from around the world.

Cancer Council Australia recently released research estimating that more than 2600 bowel cancers diagnosed nationally in 2010 were attributable to processed and red meat consumption.

The organisation’s Kathy Chapman on Tuesday said red and processed meats were associated with around one in six bowel cancers diagnosed in Australia.

“It might be the high fat content, the charring in the cooking process or big meat eaters missing out on the protective benefits of plant-based foods or a combination of these factors,” she said.

“Whatever the mechanism, eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you to moderate your intake of processed and red meats and can also help to protect against cancer.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s recommends people eat no more than 65 to 100 grams of cooked red meat, three-to-four times a week.

Ms Chapman said lean red meat was a source of iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein, but heavily processed meat was nutrient poor by comparison.

But she also said the red meat risk should be put in a context, noting the Australian research had found 11,500 cancer cases each year are caused by tobacco, 3900 were linked to obesity and overweight and 3200 to alcohol

UNSW Professor Bernard Stewart, who chaired the IARC review group, says the evidence didn’t support complete abstinence from red meat.

“We aren’t recommending a ban on bacon or taking the beef off the barbecue altogether,” he said.

“But this latest advice should help make Australians more aware of the cancer risks associated with long-term excess red meat and processed meat consumption.”

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australians shouldn’t be concerned by the WHO research.

“If you got everything that the WHO said were carcinogenic and took it out of your daily requirements, well, you are kind of heading back to a cave,” he told ABC radio.

Veterans Affairs Minister Stuart Robert said the answer probably lay in the middle.

“I like bacon and eggs and you can’t have a good Saturday morning breakfast with the kids without bacon and eggs, but I wouldn’t be eating it every day,” he told Sky News.

“Everything in moderation and generally you don’t have a problem.”

Meat & Livestock Australia noted the nation’s red meat dietary guidelines, saying its consumption can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

“Red meat such as beef and lamb is a critical, natural source of iron and zinc, vitamin B12 and omega-3 – essential nutrients needed to keep the body and brain functioning well,” a spokesman said.

“Children and women are eating less than the recommended amount of red meat and one in five women have some form of iron deficiency.

“When it comes to prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, the evidence suggests a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle is critical – focusing on only one kind of food is not enough.”

Pistorius may appeal prison release delay – lawyer

The board on Monday upheld a decision by South African Justice Minister Michael Masutha, who intervened in plans for Pistorius’ release to say the law requires the athlete to serve a sixth of his sentence before parole can be considered.

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Pistorius was due to be released into house arrest in August after serving 10 months of a five-year sentence. His parole hearing was conducted before he had served six months.

“We are considering our position,” Pistorius’ solicitor Brian Webber told Reuters when asked if they would appeal the decision.

The family of the Paralympic gold medallist, whose lower legs were amputated as a baby, said in a statement on Tuesday that they were “concerned about the legality” of the parole decision and believed Pistorius was being unfairly treated.

“This experience leaves us with the uncomfortable conclusion that the public, political and media hype that was allowed to develop around Oscar’s trial has undermined his right to be treated like any other prisoner,” the statement said.

Pistorius was found guilty in September 2014 of culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter, after he fired four 9mm shots through a locked toilet door on Feb. 14, 2013 killing model and law graduate Steenkamp.

At a globally televised trial, he argued that he had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

Prosecutors are appealing the verdict, arguing it should be murder because Pistorius must have known that the person behind the door could be killed, regardless who it was. The appeal is due to be heard on Nov. 3.

A panel of five judges will hear the appeal. The judges could either reject the prosecution’s appeal, order a retrial or convict Pistorius of murder themselves, legal experts say.

(Reporting by Joe Brock and Siyabonga Sishi; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

No let up in pressure but Boks know path to success

A bonus-point victory at the Olympic Stadium would enable the Boks top the pool and advance from a group they were expected to dominate before the 34-32 loss to Japan in their tournament opener.

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That result sent shockwaves through the team and the country, and defeat to the U.S. could send them home early if other results go against them.

“We have had massive pressure in the last two weeks and it is still on,” Du Preez said.

“But we are also putting pressure on ourselves (to perform), at least now we know the way we want to go and what is successful for us.”

With just four days turnaround time from their 34-16 victory over Scotland, Du Preez admits that a good start is vital for the Boks, who do not want to have to find reserves of energy going into the final 20 minutes.

“In any game it is vital to start well, but given that we pretty much have had the same starting line-up for the last two weeks, if we don’t get a good start we will have to adapt,” he said.

“We were under a bit of pressure last week against Scotland and there were times when things did not go our way. But the guys fought through that.

“But this time round we would love to be in a comfortable position going into halftime.”

In Du Preez the Boks have a skipper with a calm head, a player who lets his actions, rather than words, do the talking on the field.

Since being handed the captaincy by coach Heyneke Meyer after Jean de Villiers exited the tournament with a fractured jaw and second-choice Victor Matfield was sidelined too, Du Preez says he has enjoyed the experience — sort of.

“So far I have enjoyed it,” he said. “I don’t enjoy media conferences and these speeches, but as soon as I get onto the field I love it.

“I enjoy having an influence on the guys around me and I have got great guys next to me, so I don’t have to say too much.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Qld man claims cops edited ‘assault’ video

A Cairns man facing charges of obstructing police is considering suing the Queensland Police Service after claiming he was bashed by an officer during a routine traffic stop.

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Kenneth Wong says police took his phone and edited footage of him being assaulted by a male constable.

But the QPS will not look into the allegations until Wong, 24, has been through court for a string of charges himself, including failing to stop, contravening a direction and obstructing police.

“As the matter is currently before the court it is not appropriate to comment further,” a police statement read.

Wong says he was repeatedly punched in the face by the constable after he was pulled over on August 29 for failing to completely stop at an intersection while on the way to visit his sick mother in Cairns.

An emergency department report obtained by AAP shows Wong suffered two black eyes, a cut under his left eye, bruises to both wrists and a bruise to his right shoulder.

The law graduate and education student says the officer called for back-up when he questioned why he had to hand over his licence.

After realising Wong was recording him, the officer then allegedly took Mr Wong’s glasses off, punched him multiple times and tried to pull him from the vehicle while he was still strapped in.

Once at the police station, he was pressured into giving police his phone’s passcode, Wong says.

He says police then disabled the iCloud function so he could not download the video remotely.

Wong’s phone was returned last week and he is convinced the video has been “trimmed” to remove possibly incriminating evidence. He plans to have a computer expert look at it.

Wong can be heard on the video file telling the officer: “No, you can’t do that. You don’t have the power under PPRA (Police Powers and Responsibilities Act).

“I give you licence, you better leave me alone.

“Do not touch it, it’s my property.”

The officer repeatedly replies: “Don’t start, mate.”

Wong says his facial injuries have prevented him from continuing his placement at a Cairns high school, while the incident itself has left him frightened and distrustful of police.

Wong approached the Crime and Corruption Commission to investigate the officer, but the complaint was forwarded to the QPS’s Ethical Standard Command.

Wong has sought advice and said he is considering legal action.

It comes amid a QPS review into a recent spate of police brutality incidents on the Gold Coast.

The Queensland Council of Civil Liberties, which has been assisting Wong, says police behaviour is a growing concern.

“We’re receiving at least one complaint or allegation about police violence or brutality a week,” acting president Julie Jansen told AAP.

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar is stronger against the greenback, extending its post-Reserve Bank rate decision gains.

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At 0630 AEDT on Wednesday, the currency was trading at 71.68 US cents, up from 71.22 cents on Tuesday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open higher following a mixed performance of US equities as the US dollar weakened and oil prices surged.

At 0645 AEDT on Wednesday, the December share price index futures contract was up 11 points at 5,180.

ELSEWHERE:

LIMA – The International Monetary Fund has cut its growth forecasts for the world economy, warning of increasing risks from the slowdown in China, which is dragging other emerging markets down with it.

LIMA – The massive arrival of migrants in the European Union will burden member states’ budgets in the short term but ultimately fuel economic growth, the IMF’s chief economist says.

WASHINGTON – The International Monetary Fund has estimated that the US economy will pick up only modestly in 2016 after a mild gain this year, thanks to low energy prices and an improving housing market.

BERLIN – The new chief of scandal-hit Volkswagen has braced his workforce for tough times ahead, while admitting that billions laid aside for fines and damages arising from a massive pollution cheating scam will not be enough.

NEW YORK – Freeport-McMoRan says it’s considering spinning off its oil and gas business and other strategic alternative to focus on its copper mining business.

PURCHASE – PepsiCo’s third-quarter profit topped Wall Street expectations as the maker of Frito-Lay snacks and Mountain Dew soda hiked prices and trimmed costs.

Unis buoyed by innovation calls

Universities are demanding an end to parliament’s bottleneck on reform and want both sides of politics to put their money where their mouth is on innovation.

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Buoyed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s shared view that innovation is the key for future prosperity, Universities Australia chair Barney Glover says it’s time to invest in it or fall behind those that do.

“Both major political parties have decidedly planted their feet firmly in the future,” Professor Glover told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

“We have reached a stage where a progressive legislative framework is not only possible, but achievable.”

He also criticised the uncertainty left by the government’s inability to push fee deregulation through the parliament.

The plans, twice blocked by the Senate, have been mothballed and will not go ahead until 2017.

The impasse left the nation’s third-largest export industry in funding limbo and without a plan forward.

“This kind of instability is simply intolerable,” Prof Glover said.

He warned Australia risked being left behind without a long-term advancement plan.

With 40 per cent of jobs tipped to disappear within two decades, university investment will be needed to create new jobs, industries and sources of income.

“We face a stark choice. We either make this investment or we fall behind those that do,” he said.

In a pre-election wish-list, his group calls for tax concessions for firms that work with universities on research, more money to encourage international research ties, and efforts to encourage start-ups.

But it all depends on all sides agreeing.

Prof Glover says the nation is up to it – and universities are willing to help.

‘This does not look like an accident’: NATO rejects Russia explanation on Turkish air space

With Russia extending its air strikes to include the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he was losing patience with Russian violations of his country’s air space.

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“An attack on Turkey means an attack on NATO,” Erdogan warned at a Brussels news conference.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had reports of a substantial Russian military build-up in Syria, including ground troops and ships in the eastern Mediterranean.

“I will not speculate on the motives … but this does not look like an accident and we have seen two of them,” Stoltenberg said of the air incursions over Turkey’s border with Syria at the weekend. He noted that they “lasted for a long time”.

The incidents, which NATO has described as “extremely dangerous” and “unacceptable”, underscore the risks of a further escalation of the Syrian civil war, as Russian and U.S. warplanes fly combat missions over the same country for the first time since World War Two.

The Russian Defence Ministry had said that an SU-30 warplane had entered Turkish air space along the border with Syria “for a few seconds” on Saturday, a mistake caused by bad weather. NATO says a plane also entered Turkish air space on Sunday, an incident Russia says it is looking into.

A U.S. official told Reuters the incursions had lasted more than a few seconds and described Moscow’s assertion that they were an accident as “far-fetched”.

The Turkish military said a further incident took place on Monday when a MIG-29 fighter and Syria-based missile systems “interfered” with eight Turkish F-16 jets patrolling along the Syrian border.

The MIG-29 locked its radar onto the Turkish patrol for 4 minutes 30 seconds, and a Syria-based missile system locked onto them for 4 minutes 15 seconds, the Turkish military said. Russia flies MIG-29s, as does Syria’s own air force.

Stoltenberg said the U.S.-led alliance had not received “any real explanation” from Russia about the incursions.

Air space violations

Disagreement over the air space violations comes as Russia and the west dispute the aims of Moscow’s air campaign. Moscow says it is attacking Islamic State, but most of its air strikes have hit territory held by other rebel groups fighting against its Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

Western countries, Arab states and Turkey, who are waging their own bombing campaign against Islamic State but also want Assad to leave power, say Moscow is using Islamic State as a pretext to target Assad’s other foes. Russia says the Assad government should be the centerpiece of international efforts to combat extremism.

With Russian and NATO planes now flying combat missions in the same air space, a danger is that the Cold War enemies could fire on each other.

The skies in the area have seen incidents in the past. A Turkish jet was shot down by the Syrian air force in 2012 over the Mediterranean and earlier this year Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter that Ankara said violated its airspace.  

Russia’s NATO envoy said the alliance was using the accidental incursion into Turkish air space for propaganda.

“The impression is that the incident in Turkish air space was used to plug NATO as an organization into the information campaign waged by the West to distort the aims of the operations carried out by the Russian air force in Syria,” Alexander Grushko was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying in Brussels.

Russia’s defense ministry said it agreed in principle with U.S. proposals on coordinating military flights in Syria. The ministry said it was ready to hold talks with Turkey to avoid “misunderstandings” and invited foreign military officers to Moscow for talks on how best to fight Islamic State.

President Vladimir Putin has said he will not put Russian ground forces in Syria, where the civil war has killed 250,000 people. However, Stoltenberg said there was a growing presence of Russian forces in Syria.

“I can confirm that we have seen a substantial build-up of Russian forces in Syria – air forces, air defenses, but also ground troops in connection with the air base they have, and we also see an increased naval presence,” Stoltenberg said.

Russian tanks

Several senior officials in the Middle East told Reuters the Russian air campaign was part of plan that will also involve a ground offensive by Iranian troops, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and Syrian government forces against Assad’s foes.

The ground campaign is being led by Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, the elite extra-territorial special forces arm of the Revolutionary Guards who reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the officials said.

They said Soleimani traveled to Moscow in July to help plan the joint action after senior Russian officials met Khamenei and senior Iranians met Putin to agree it.

U.S. officials have previously said Russia has sent seven T-90 tanks, some artillery, and about 200 marines. It has also deployed temporary housing units, a portable air traffic control station and components for an air defense system.

Russian defense ministry sources have been quoted in Russian media as saying about 1,500 Russian servicemen are involved in supporting the air strikes and advising Syria’s army.

The Russian Defence Ministry says it has more than 50 warplanes and helicopters in Syria. Russia’s Tartous naval facility there is a logistics base and has been overhauled in recent years. It is being used to unload equipment, some of which is also being flown in.

In the latest strikes, Russian jets hit Islamic State targets in Palmyra and struck the northern province of Aleppo, Syrian state television said.

Islamic State forces captured Palmyra in May, an advance that brought them closer to the core of government-held territory in western Syria. It also put the city’s Roman-era ruins under the militants’ control.

Russia denied hitting civilian targets inside Palmyra or conducting strikes that might harm the ruins.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group tracking Syria’s civil war, said the Palmyra strikes killed 15 Islamic State fighters.

“It was the heaviest Russian attack on Palmyra,” Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said. Across Syria, Russian jets carried out at least 34 air strikes in the last 24 hours, the Observatory said.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Madrid, Andrew Osborn and Maria Kiselyova in Moscow; Writing by Giles Elgood and Peter Graff; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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