Washington (AFP) – Russian warplanes bombed US-backed fighters in several small villages in northern Syria after they mistakenly thought Islamic State group forces were in the area, a US general said Wednesday.
Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said Russian and Syrian regime aircraft attacked the villages to the south and east of Al-Bab in Aleppo province on Tuesday, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties.
The Russians apparently had observed Islamic State fighters moving from the area and wrongly assumed that other forces remaining were jihadists.
“We had some Russian aircraft and regime aircraft bomb some villages that I believe they thought were held by ISIS, yet… actually on the ground were some of our Syrian Arab Coalition forces,” Townsend told reporters in a video call from Baghdad, using another acronym for the jihadists.
The SAC forms part of a broader alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) comprising Kurdish and other groups that the United States has been training and advising to lead the anti-IS fight.
US troops operating less than five kilometers (three miles) from the villages observed the bombing and communicated the error, which was then passed to the Russians through a “deconfliction” hotline the two powers have established to avoid mishaps.
“It became apparent that the strikes were falling on some of the Syrian coalition positions,” Townsend said.
“Some quick calls were made to our deconfliction channels and the Russians acknowledged and stopped bombing there.”
The Russian defense ministry denied conducting air strikes but confirmed communication through the hotline.
Full article: Russian jets mistakenly bomb US-backed forces in Syria: US (Yahoo!)