Russian air strike in Syria kills 3 Turkish soldiers: army

Five more Turkish soldiers were killed Thursday in fighting for the Islamic State (IS) held town of Al-Bab in northern Syria, bringing to 10 the number of troops who lost their lives over two days, a report said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan to express sorrow over the incident and extend his condolences to the families of the soldiers.

The military also said an investigation into the incident had been begun by both sides.

ISIL is being fought by three separate military alliances in northern Syria, including the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which incorporate the Kurdish YPG militia.

It came as the new Central Intelligence Agency chief, Mike Pompeo, was in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials on issues including Syria, on his first foreign visit since the inauguration of USA president Donald Trump. The wounded Turkish soldiers were transferred to a nearby hospital after initial medical treatment. The two mended ties a year ago after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Turkey-Syrian border in November 2015.

The locations put these fighters in close proximity to Syrian regime forces who are also advancing on al-Bab.

The attack happened on Thursday morning near the northern Syrian town of al-Bab, which Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters had been trying to capture from IS militants.

"Our first goal is to complete the operation in al-Bab".

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels meanwhile pursued a major offensive against the IS-held Syrian city of al-Bab, 30 km (20 miles) south of the border with Turkey.

U.S. support for the YPG has angered Turkey, which views it as an extension of a Kurdish militia that is waging a rebellion in Turkey.

The Kremlin said it hopes to resolve the Syrian civil war through political mediation.

There are almost 1,000 IS fighters left in al-Bab and 800 others on the outskirts, according to Abu Eyad, a rebel fighter who is involved in the Turkish-backed operation.

  • Jon Douglas