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02 March 2017, 12:46 | Clarence Schmidt
A Russian and Syrian airstrike intended for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants mistakenly hit us -backed fighters in Syria, a top USA general said Wednesday.
Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the ground commander for counter-Islamic State coalition forces, told reporters via teleconference from Baghdad Wednesday that the bombing on Tuesday inflicted casualties on the Syrian Arab Coalition, a force that has been battling Islamic State fighters, in villages described as "south and east of al-Bab".
US advisers who are supporting the Syrian forces were several miles away when the Russians launched the airstrike.
The Russians quickly called off the airstrikes, said Townsend, who suggested that the bombings were likely a mistake in what he called a "highly complicated battlefield" in northeastern Syria.
Russian Federation deployed aircrafts to Syria in late 2015 to aid President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS, while USA troops support the Syrian opposition forces, and the two sides set up a communication channel to avoid getting into each other's air space.
Townsend, who commands US forces in Iraq and Syria, said these groups are "bumping up against each other" around the city, adding "three armies and an enemy force have all converged within the same grid square, so it's very hard and complicated" to know just who is where.
In this photo taken on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, Russian SU-24M jet fighter armed with laser guided bombs takes off from a runaway at Hmeimim airbase in Syria. "The ISIS fighters withdrew, and the Syrian Arab Coalition fighters advanced into those villages", the general explained.
The Syrian Arab Coalition fights under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS, anti-Qaeda, anti-Assad coalition now leading the major Wrath of Euphrates offensive to oust ISIS from their capital, Raqqa.
Syrian fighters backed by the United States, the Turks as well as Syrian forces backed by Russian Federation all are still active in the area.
Foreign Policy traveled to northern Syria late last month with Townsend and head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Joseph Votel, who were checking in with local SDF commanders and the U.S. Special Forces training Arab and Kurdish forces for the Raqqa fight. "We have YPG, Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, and Syrian Arab Coalition fighters also right bumping up against each other there", he said. "And we used that mechanism and it worked". Russia, Turkey, the USA and other countries are backing surrogate forces inside Syria, which has been in a civil war since 2011.
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