A Russian airstrike accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers and wounded 11 others during an operation against the Islamic State in northern Syria on Thursday morning, Turkey's military said in a statement and Moscow confirmed.The head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said the warplanes were targeting Islamic State sites in the al-Bab area.
Whether indeed "accidental", or payback for the downing of a Russian jet over the Turkish-Syrian border in November 2015 is unclear, but according to Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences over the accidental loss of life in the airstrike, in a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,
“President Putin discussed… his recent phone conversation with Turkish President Erdogan. Among other things, he said that he expressed condolences to his colleague over the incident that took place early Thursday morning, when Turkish servicemen were killed as a result of incoordination in Russian Air Force airstrikes against terrorists during the joint operation to liberate al-Bab,” Peskov said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia and Turkey will jointly investigate the deadly incident. The Kremlin spokesman told Sputnik that Putin told Erdogan that Turkish soldiers had died as a result of non-coordination of coordinates during Russian military jets' strikes in Syria. The Russian and Turkish presidents held a phone conversation earlier on Thursday. Putin expressed condolences to Erdogan over the deaths of Turkish soldiers near Syria's al-Bab, the Kremlin said earlier. They also agreed to expand military coordination during the operation against militants from Daesh and other extremist groups in Syria.
The Russian Defense Ministry has also confirmed the unintentional strike, killing Turkish servicemen in Syria. The ministry said that Russian bombers had been on a mission to destroy Daesh terrorists' positions near al-Bab, where Turkish soldiers had been accidentally bombed. "Russian bombers have been carrying out a combat mission destroying Daesh positions in al-Bab area. The chiefs of the [Russian and Turkish] general staffs agreed to closer coordinate joint actions and exchange information about the situation on the ground."
Valery Gerasimov held telephone talks with his Turkish counterpart, during which the issues of the fight against international terrorist groups in Syria and the situation in the northeast of the province of Aleppo were discussed.
"Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Army General Valery Gerasimov expressed condolences to [Turkish] General Hulusi Akar in connection with the death of three Turkish soldiers operating in the area of ??the city of al-Bab as a result of unintentional strike by a Russian aircraft."