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Syria Says U.S.-Led Coalition Targeted Its Military, Killing 3 Soldiers

The government of Bashar Assad in Syria says the U.S.-led coalition struck one of its army camps on Sunday killing three soldiers and wounding 13.

The Washington Post reports that the accusation is the first of its kind since the United States began bombing Islamic State targets in Syria 14 months ago.

NPR's Alice Fordham reports that the United States denied the accusations.

"We have no indication any Syrian Soldiers were near our strikes," Col. Steve Warren, spokesman of Operation Inherent Resolve, told Alice. "We conducted four strikes in the Dayr Az Zawr province yesterday, all against oil well heads. Our strikes were approximately 55 kilometers south east the area Syrian State media claims their soldiers were. We did not strike any vehicles or personnel targets in this area."

The Associated Press reports:

"The city of Deir el-Zour, where the purported strikes happened Sunday, is mainly held by the Islamic State group, but the Syrian government maintains a presence in some parts of it. A U.S.-led coalition has been striking at [Islamic State] targets in Syria for the past year. France and the United Kingdom have recently joined in and have carried out airstrikes of their own in Syria.

"The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the Syrian conflict through a network of activists on the ground, also reported the airstrikes and gave a death toll similar to the Syrian government. According to the Observatory, in Syria's overcrowded skies, the aircraft behind the incident in Deir el-Zour are 'believed' to belong to the anti-IS coalition targeted."

The Post reports that Warren says Russia was also conducting airstrikes in the area and that he isn't sure whether those strikes may have been responsible for the attack.

The Post adds:

"The Syrian government's accusation illustrated the danger that misunderstandings or misinformation could trigger a wider conflict as Russia and the United States lead separate, rival air campaigns to combat the threat posed by the Islamic State."

Russia, of course, backs Assad. The U.S. wants him gone. Both countries oppose the Islamic State.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.