Russian Warplane Accidentally Kills Three Turkish Soldiers in Syria

A Russian warplane on Thursday accidentally hit a building in northern Syria with Turkish soldiers inside, killing at least three troops and wounding 11, Turkey’s military said.

Russia immediately apologized for the bombing near the Islamic State-held town of al-Bab, which came amid warming ties between Turkey and Russia after they were strained by Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet near the border with Syria two years ago.

Al-Bab, one of the Islamic State group’s last major strongholds in Syria besides its self-declared capital of Raqqa, has emerged as the latest epicenter of the Syrian conflict, where the interests of various stakeholders converge. Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters have been trying unsuccessfully to capture the town from IS for months.

More recently, Russian-backed Syrian government forces and their allies have converged on the town, and on Thursday made significant advances that brought them less than three kilometers (1.5 miles) from the town, according to opposition monitors.

The Russian airstrike came as Turkey was holding funerals for five Turkish soldiers killed in an IS attack near al-Bab the day before.

President Vladimir Putin promptly called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to express regrets over what the Russian leader called a “tragic incident.”

The Turkish military said Turkey and Russia were conducting a joint investigation into the bombing.