Putin offers condolences as Turkish troops die in airstrike
Russian air strikes accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers during an operation against Isil in Syria yesterday, the Turkish military said.
"During an operation by a Russia Federation warplane against Islamic State [Isil] targets in the region of the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria, a bomb accidentally hit a building used by Turkish army units," the Turkish military said in a statement.
Eleven other soldiers were wounded.
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin had called Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan and expressed his condolences, blaming the incident on poor co-ordination between Moscow and Ankara.
Meanwhile, Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters resumed a major offensive inside the Isil-held city of al-Bab yesterday, a day after they broke through Isil defences in its remaining stronghold in Aleppo province.
A rebel commander in the Euphrates Shield forces said fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), working with Turkish commanders, were moving forward from territory near the western gates of the city they had stormed on Wednesday.
"The battles began a short while ago to complete what had been achieved yesterday," said a commander of a leading FSA group fighting in al-Bab, who requested anonymity.
North-east of al-Bab, he added, they have also regained control of the two key villages of Qabasin and Bazza, from which they had been repeatedly pushed out in past fighting by a succession of suicide attacks.
The advance into al-Bab threatens an important Isil stronghold, whose fall would deepen Turkish influence in an area of northern Syria where it has created a de facto buffer zone.
Syrian government forces have also advanced on al-Bab from the south, bringing them close to their Turkish and rebel enemies in one of the most complex battlefields of the six-year-old conflict.
Al-Bab was a major economic hub for the militants and lies on a key crossroads for the region north of Aleppo. The city is just 30km from the Turkish border. The Turkish military said yesterday they had killed 44 militants in aerial and artillery strikes and clashes in northern Syria.
Five Turkish soldiers were killed in the clashes, the private Turkish news agency Dogan said. This would bring the total death toll among Turkish troops since the start of the Euphrates Shield operation in August to 66, Turkish media said.