Russia, Syria bombed US-backed fighters in Syria

Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said Russian and Syrian regime aircraft attacked the villages to the southeast of Al-Bab in Aleppo province on Tuesday, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties.

US forces in the area, four or five km (less than three miles) away, observed the strikes and the USA military called their Russian counterparts through an emergency line, after which the bombing stopped, Townsend said.

"Some quick calls were made through our de-confliction channels, and the Russians acknowledged and stopped bombing there", the general said. "Yet, they were actually - on the ground were some of our Syrian Arab Coalition forces".

"We used that mechanism and it worked", Townsend said.

The United States and Russia established a hotline in 2015 in which a US colonel in Qatar and a Russian colonel in Syria work to "deconflict" operations and prevent aerial collisions.

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The deadly bombing run marks the second time in weeks that Russian planes have bombed friendly forces around al Bab. The issue is a sticky one because the Turks are opposed to the USA relying on Syrian Kurdish fighters in and around Raqqa; the Turks consider the Kurdish force known as YPG to be terrorists and a threat to Turkey.

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. He added that the USA asks "all forces to remain focused on the counter-ISIS fight and concentrate their efforts on defeating ISIS, and not toward other objectives that may cause the coalition to divert energy and resources away from Raqqa". Townsend, who spoke to reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters in Baghdad, said he believes the Russians thought they were striking Islamic State positions in the village.

The airstrikes took place in a village near al-Bab, 9-12 miles from Manbij where Syrian Arab Coalition fighters were on the ground. Since 2014, US -backed forces - and more recently Turkish military forces - have been targeting the Islamic State group, which has steadily ceded ground across northern and eastern Syria. "It is working and our local partners are fully invested, they are leading the fight", he said.

"This is something that goes on daily in the air", Townsend said of deconfliction.