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US Accidentally Kills Syrian Troops, Risking Cease-Fire

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The U.S. military accidentally bombed Syrian soldiers, killing more than 60 people and causing the Syrian government to declare an to end a cease-fire that had been brokered with the help of Russia.

On Sep. 19, two days after the airstrike and only one week after the cease-fire began, the Syrian military announced it will continue fighting, reported Reuters. The cease-fire, which the U.S. brokered with the help of Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad who the U.S. wants to push out of power, was believed to be a positive first step to bringing peace to the war-torn country. But that hope is now in doubt.

Representatives from the U.S. and Russia were meeting in Geneva on Sept. 19 to try to extend the cease-fire.

On Sep. 17, American pilots incorrectly believed they were bombing ISIS militants, also known as Da'esh.

U.S. Central Command issued a statement about the incident:

Coalition forces believed they were striking a Da'esh fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike. The coalition airstrike was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.

The location of the strike is in an area the coalition has struck in the past, and coalition members in the Combined Air Operations Center had earlier informed Russian counterparts of the upcoming strike. It is not uncommon for the Coalition Air Operations Center to confer with Russian officials as a professional courtesy and to deconflict Coalition and Russian aircraft, although such contact is not required by the current U.S. -- Russia Memorandum of Understanding on safety of flight.

Russia, which is working with the Syrian government and wants Assad to remain in power, as well as U.S. Coalition forces to defeat ISIS, said the refusal by the U.S. to share intelligence was the cause of the fatal mistake.

"We consider what happened as a natural result of the persistent refusal of the United States from the establishment of close cooperation with Russia in the fight against ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other affiliated terrorist groups," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, reports CNN.

Sources: Reuters, U.S. Central Command, CNN / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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