ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Russian plane, conducting anti-ISIS operations in northern Syria, accidentally carried out an airstrike on a building in al-Bab that was housing Turkish armed forces, killing three soldiers and wounding eleven Thursday morning, the Turkish military said in a statement.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express his condolences over the incident, the statement detailed, adding that both sides have launched investigations.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the incident occurred because of a lack of coordination between Turkey and Russia in Syria, Sputnik reported.
Relations between Turkey and Russia have ebbed and waned over the Syrian conflict with each backing opposing forces in the country’s civil war. The two mended ties last year after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Turkey-Syrian border in November 2015.
The battlespace around al-Bab is complicated, anti-ISIS coalition spokesperson Col. John Dorrian said on Wednesday.
Syrian regime forces, with their allied Lebanese Hezbollah and Russian artillery support, have come within 2.5 to 3 kilometres of the town, pushing the militant group out of a village to the south, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Thursday.
At the same time, Turkish forces and their allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) clashed with ISIS in the northern suburbs of al-Bab. The Observatory said Turkey, which has been trying to enter al-Bab for months, is “seeking to distract the organization and divide its power within the city, by opening more than one front.”
The two forces fighting ISIS also clashed with each other on Thursday, the Observatory reported. FSA forces clashed with regime forces southwest of al-Bab, “amid mutual bombardment from both sides,” the conflict monitor stated.
The Turkish military announced on Thursday it had “neutralized” 44 ISIS militants and hit 253 ISIS targets in northern Syria over the last 24 hours. The military describes those killed, incapacitated, or captured as ‘neutralized.’
According to figures from the Observatory, at least 315 civilians have been killed as a result of Turkish shelling on al-Bab and surrounding villages since November 13, when Turkish and FSA forces reached al-Bab’s outskirts.
[This post was originally published by Rudaw and republished here with permission.]