Russian air strikes on Thursday accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers during an operation against Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, the Turkish military said, highlighting the risk of unintended clashes between the numerous outside powers in a complex war.
Besides Russia and Turkey, the foreign powers embroiled in Syria’s increasingly convoluted six-year-old war include members of a US-led coalition fighting Islamic State as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports the rebels who oppose him. In 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian air force jet that it said had crossed into Turkish airspace, though Moscow denied any incursion.
“During an operation by a Russia Federation warplane against Islamic State targets in the region of the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria, a bomb accidentally hit a building used by Turkish Army units,” the Turkish military said in a statement. Eleven others were wounded. The Kremlin also said Russian President Vladimir Putin had called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and expressed his condolences, blaming the incident on poor coordination between Moscow and Ankara.
The two countries have since repaired relations, and the Kremlin statement on Thursday said the two leaders had agreed to step up military coordination against Islamic State. US Vice President Mike Pence also expressed condolences for the Turkish casualties in a call with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, in which they discussed cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Yildirim’s office said.