March 24, 2017

Three Turkish soldiers killed in Russian bombing

11 February 2017, 12:40 | Ella Tate

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At 8:40 a.m. local time on February 9, a Russian fighter plane on a sortie against the Islamic State erroneously hit a building in the town of Al-Bab that was occupied by Turkish troops, reads a statement on the Turkish Armed Forces website.

The soldiers died when the airstrike hit a building held by Turkish forces, and 11 wounded soldiers were evacuated, according to Turkish and Russian military officials.

With Moscow and Ankara cooperating ever more closely on Syria, President Vladimir Putin quickly reached out to Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express condolences and promise better future coordination.

A military statement said the Russian military was carrying out an operation targeting Islamic State at the time of the incident.

"The Russian side openly said that the incident was a result of an unintended strike and expressed condolences".

Separate operations by Turkey and Mr Al Assad's forces, backed by Moscow, have trapped the extremists inside Al Bab which has been besieged since Monday when Syrian forces cut off a road leading into the town.

The incident could have happened because of a fault of the Turkish Command.

The two countries have since repaired relations, and the Kremlin's statement on Thursday said that the two leaders had agreed to step up military coordination against Islamic State.

John Dorrian, spokesman for the US -led coalition in Iraq and Syria, said that Turkey's efforts to defeat Daesh in al-Bab are significant.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on Friday that "there should not have been Turkish soldiers within the limits of these coordinates". Turkey and Russian Federation will take all the necessary measures and boost coordination in order to prevent the recent tragic accident from repeating in the future, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.

Turkey deployed its troops in the territory of Syria in August 24, 2016 in the sidelines of the operation called Euphrates Shield.

Russia and Turkey only recently repaired ties after Turkey shot down a Russian jet near the border with Syria two years ago.

The two sides have since backed a process in the Kazakh capital Astana to search for peace to end the nearly six-year civil war in Syria.

Syrian government forces, meanwhile, are also closing in on IS from the south, where fierce fighting is reported.

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