Russian warplane accidentally kills three Turkish soldiers in Syria’s al-Bab: Turkish military
ANKARAA Russian warplane accidentally hit a building housing Turkish Armed Forces units during air operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria’s al-Bab on Feb. 9, killing three soldiers and wounding another 11, the Turkish Armed Forces has announced.
The military said the incident occurred at around 8:40 a.m. in the region where the Euphrates Shield Operation has been continuing.
The wounded soldiers were immediately taken to hospitals, the military said.
It also stated that Russian officials called the incident an accident, as they expressed their sadness and condolences.
The military also said an investigation into the incident had been begun by both sides.
According to the military, the Russian president also called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the incident and extended his condolences.
Russian Chief of General Staff Valeriy Gerasimov also called his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, regarding the incident to extend his condolences.
Before the phone talk between the two leaders, Turkish Foreign Minister Melvüt Çavuşoğlu talked with Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart.
The downing of a Russian fighter jet on Nov. 24, 2015, near the Syrian border sparked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Moscow, which came to an end in June 2016 when the two countries agreed to restore ties.
Turkey and Russia broke the ice after Erdoğan sent a letter to his Russian counterpart in late June 2016 to express his deep sorrow over the downing of the jet and his wishes to normalize bilateral relations.
With the normalization of ties, Moscow removed some sanctions on trade and restrictions on Russian tourists, though it will continue to impose a visa regime on Turkish nationals.
5 more soldiers killed
On Feb. 9, Turkish army said 44 ISIL members were killed in aerial and artillery strikes and clashes in al-Bab.
Five more Turkish soldiers were also killed and 10 others were wounded in clashes on Feb. 9, Doğan News Agency reported, bringing the total number of Turkish dead to 13 in two days of fierce battle.
The confirmation on the hitting of Turkish soldiers came hours after the military announced that its troops and Free Syrian Army have intensified their effort to finally dislodge ISIL from the Syrian city of al- Bab.
Anti-ISIL coalition forces also hit jihadist targets in al-Bab, the Turkish Armed Forces military. The Turkish army and Syrian regime forces have been growing ever-nearer, raising fears of a clash between the two.
As fighters of the FSA, backed by Turkish special forces, advanced in their siege of the city to the west of the ISIL stronghold, the distance between the Turkish and Syrian armies has been reduced to just two kilometers, Turkish sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
More than 60 Turkish soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the Euphrates Shield Operation in northern Syria, most of whom have been killed in the al-Bab offensive due to ISIL’s strong resistance.
A rebel commander in the Euphrates Shield forces told Reuters on Feb. 9 that fighters of the FSA, working with Turkish commanders, were moving forward from territory near the western gates of the city they had stormed on Feb. 8.
“The battles began a short while ago to complete what had been achieved yesterday,” the commander of a leading FSA group fighting in al-Bab. Northeast of al-Bab, they added, they also regained control of two key villages they had repeatedly been pushed out of in recent fighting due to a succession of suicide attacks.