MOSCOW, Russia (A.W.)—A Russian airstrike killed three Turkish soldiers in northern Syria on Feb. 9. Both countries have described the attack as an accident. The strike hit a building near the town of al-Bab believing it to contain ISIS/Daesh militants instead of Turkish troops, Turkey’s military said according to BBC News.
Russian President Vladimir Putin apologized in a phone call and conveyed his condolences to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. One Turkish official called it a “friendly fire.”
Eleven others were also wounded in this incident. Russia and Turkey, who back opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War have been conducting joint air strikes on ISIS in recent weeks. Tensions escalated on the Syrian battlefield as clashes began between the Turkish-backed rebels and the Russian-backed government forces.
President Putin told Erdogan that poor coordination between Moscow and Ankara was to blame for the accident, Russia’s RIA news agency reported. The two countries are currently conducting a joint investigation, Turkey’s military said.
In Nov. 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet, killing one pilot and injuring another. Both countries disagreed on whether the plane had violated Turkish airspace. Relations were further strained last December, when the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was assassinated in Ankara.
In recent months, the two nations were working towards warmer relations and attempting to broker ceasefires in the Syrian Civil War.