World News

U.S. military confirms coalition's Syria air strike halted

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Saturday coalition forces had halted an air strike south of Deir-al-Zor, Syria, on Saturday after Russian officials said the targeted personnel and vehicles may have been part of the Syrian military.

The strike was in an area the coalition had attacked in the past, and coalition members had informed their Russian counterparts before it began, the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement.

The statement was issued after Russia and a war monitoring group said U.S.-led coalition jets bombed a Syrian army position near Deir al-Zor airport on Saturday, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers.

The Syrian army said the strike allowed Islamic State fighters to briefly overrun their position. The incident put new strains on a ceasefire in effect elsewhere in the country.

“Coalition forces believed they were striking a Da’esh (Islamic State) fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike,” Tampa, Florida-based Central Command said in its statement.

Central Command said Syria is a complex situation, with a variety of military forces and militias in close proximity, and that coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit.

The coalition will review the strike and the circumstances surrounding it to see if any lessons can be learned, the statement said.

It is not uncommon for the Coalition Air Operations Center to confer with Russian officials as a professional courtesy and to avoid risking conflict between U.S. and Russian aircraft, the statement said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Paul Simao and David Gregorio