MOSCOW (Reuters) - A roadside bomb planted by Syrian militants detonated near a joint Russian-Turkish patrol in northern Syria on Tuesday morning, injuring three Russian soldiers, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
Russia called off the patrol following the blast near the town of Ariha in Idlib province, which damaged one Russian and one Turkish armoured personnel carrier, the Russian ministry said.
The Russian statement said an unspecified number of Turkish troops were also hurt. Two sources said there were no Turkish casualties in the attack.
Turkey’s defence ministry later said two vehicles were partially damaged as a result of a car bomb and that no one was killed.
Russian jets that flew at high altitude conducted a series of bombing raids on several opposition held areas in retaliation for the attack, according to residents and a network of plane spotters who document sightings of jet fighters.
Civil defence groups said five civilians were injured in the strikes.
Hundreds of civilians fled, fearing a wider resumption of the Russian-led air strikes that had displaced over a million people before the ceasefire, witnesses said.
Russia was evacuating its equipment from the area and moving its troops to the Hmeimim air base where some of them would receive treatment, the Russian statement said.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Syria’s war, agreed in March on a ceasefire and joint patrols following weeks of clashes that took them to the brink of direct confrontation.
Ankara backs rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, and Moscow supports Damascus. The patrols take place in a “de-escalation zone” intended to serve as a buffer between government forces and opposition fighters in the last major area still held by the rebels after nine years of civil war.
An unconfirmed social media video of the attack circulated by Russia’s RIA news agency showed a powerful explosion right by a convoy of passing armoured vehicles.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow and Daren Butler and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul and Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; Editing by William Maclean
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