Tuesday, February 13, 2018

U.S. airstrikes kill scores of Russian mercenaries in Syria

Scores of Russians fighting for Bashar al-Assad died in a failed attack on a base and refinery held by the U.S. and its allies. U.S. officials put the death toll at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured. The Russian assault may have been a rogue operation. Russia’s military said it had nothing to do with the attack and the U.S. military accepted the claim.

The offensive began about 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line late on Feb. 7, when adversaries fired rounds and advanced in a “battalion-sized dismounted formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars” No fatalities were reported on the coalition side.
The government in Damascus called the U.S. action “barbaric aggression” and a “war crime.”

The death toll from the incident, already about five times more than Russia’s official losses since it entered the war in 2015, is still rising. It’s not even clear who was paying the soldiers of fortune, whether it was Russia directly, its allies in the war, Syria and Iran, or a third party.