The British military has confirmed that it participated in the coalition airstrike that killed dozens of Syrian government troops.
The strike near Deir el-Zor was originally attributed to Australian forces operating as part of the US-led coalition but Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) say that it had also been involved.
— Ministry of Defence (@DefenceHQ) September 19, 2016
The Ministry of Defence said that RAF reaper drones took part in the strike which ‘accidentally’ killed more than 80 Syrian soldiers
An MoD spokesman said: “We can confirm that the UK participated in the recent coalition air strike in Syria, south of Deir al-Zour on Saturday and we are fully co-operating with the coalition investigation. The UK would not intentionally target Syrian military units. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”
The BBC reports:
The attack is likely to endanger an already shaky ceasefire deal, which was agreed by the US and Russia and came into effect in Syria on 12 September, but important terms of the deal, such as the safe passage of aid, have still not been fulfilled.
The Pentagon said it was targeting what it thought was an IS fighting position, but the air strike was halted when Russia informed them that they were instead hitting President Assad’s forces.
The British aircraft that took part in the operation are believed to have been unmanned remotely piloted Reaper drones.
The attack put “a very big question mark” over the truce’s future, said Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
The air attack caused a bitter row between the US and Russia at the United Nations Security Council on Saturday night, with each country’s representatives walking out while the other was speaking.
US envoy Samantha Power criticised Russia for calling an emergency meeting of the council, which she said was “cynical and hypocritical”.
“Russia really needs to stop the cheap points-scoring and the grandstanding and the stunts and focus on what matters, which is implementation of something we negotiated in good faith with them,” she told reporters.
But Mr Churkin said he had never seen “such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness” as shown by Ms Power.
Australian aircraft also took part in the bombing. Its Department of Defence offered its condolences to the families of government soldiers killed or wounded.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman has been quoted as saying that the attack showed “that the White House is defending Islamic State”.