The Latest: Russian FM: 5 Russians killed in US Syria strike
ANKARA, Turkey – The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
The Russian Foreign Ministry says five Russians have been killed in a U.S. strike in Syria, the first official recognition of Russian deaths in the incident that has threatened to further strain Russia-U.S. ties.
The ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told Thursday’s briefing that five Russian citizens were killed in the U.S. strike in the eastern Deir el-Zour province, adding they were not military personnel. The Feb. 7 clash marked the first time Russian combatants in Syria died in a U.S. strike — the long-feared clash Moscow and Washington long has sought to avoid.
Until Thursday, both Russian and U.S. officials said they had no information on Russian losses in the clash, which came when pro-government forces attacked positions of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and faced a ferocious U.S. counterattack
Turkey’s defense minister says he has asked his American counterpart that the United States end its support for Syrian Kurdish fighters and remove them from a U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, that if fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.
Nurettin Canikli also says in comments televised live from Brussels on Thursday that he told U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, that U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as YPG, has helped Kurdish rebels in Turkey “to grow and strengthen,” posing an increasingly “existential” threat to Turkey.
Canikli said he presented documents to Mattis proving “organic” links between the YPG and Kurdish rebels in Turkey.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due in Ankara later on Thursday to discuss growing tensions between the two NATO allies.