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Led coalition attacks Assad forces in Syria

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Led coalition attacks Assad forces in Syria

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis dismissed concerns on Thursday that the United States was being dragged into a broader conflict in Syria, after a major clash with pro-Syrian government forces overnight that may have left 100 or more of them dead.

The statement also claimed that the US-led attack was "in self-defense".

More than 100 forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were killed in the attack by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir Ezzor province, a United States official said late Wednesday.

Russian, Turkish, and Iranian leaders reportedly planned to meet to discuss Syrian peace efforts. Over 500 pro-government fighter armed with tanks, mortars, artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems carried out the attack, according to an unnamed U.S. military personnel.

Calling the incident "perplexing", Mattis expanded on the US Defense Department's version of what happened in the incident near the city of Deir Ezzor.

Facing attacks by pro-regime forces and threats by a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, the approximately 2,000 USA troops in Syria could find it increasingly hard to help bring about the long list of objectives outlined by Tillerson last month without additional clashes that could widen the conflict.

According to a US military official, roughly more than 100 pro-regime forces died in that attack in Khusham.

The pro-Damascus forces "began shelling it with artillery", he added.

Syrian state media said the USA -led coalition bombing left dozens killed and wounded.

Led coalition attacks Assad forces in Syria
Led coalition attacks Assad forces in Syria

The pro-government forces were "likely seeking to seize oilfields in Khusham" east of the Euphrates in Deir al-Zor province, said a US official on condition of anonymity. The Pentagon would not confirm the figure given by the U.S. official late Wednesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity as details were still emerging on the attack. Pentagon officials, however, do not believe the Russians were after the Americans.

Mattis said he could not identify the attackers. That official also said the military assesses that some of the Russian contractors were killed in the USA counterstrike.

While Russia backs the Assad regime and that official said the attack utilized Russian-made tanks, another official said the coalition "cannot speculate on the exact makeup of the Syrian pro-regime forces who conducted the attack at this time".

A statement said, "Coalition service members in an advise, assist, and accompany capacity were co-located with SDF partners during the attack 8km east of the agreed-upon Euphrates river de-confliction line".

"Coalition officials were in regular communication with Russian counterparts before, during and after the thwarted [enemy] attack", proclaimed the official.

Russia's Defense Ministry said the pro-government militias involved in the incident had been carrying out reconnaissance and their activities had not been previously agreed with Russian Federation.

"The SDF responded with artillery fire on regime positions in the town of Khasham before the intervention of coalition forces", he said. "We are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war". Moscow and Washington maintain contacts in eastern Syria to prevent unexpected confrontation between forces they support. The US also shot down a pro-regime drone after it dropped a munition in the vicinity of US troops in Syria.

A US Navy F/A-18 shot down a Syrian regime Su-22 jet last June that had attacked US-backed forces on the ground.

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