Air strikes kill pro-Syria militants on Iraq-Syria border

Syrian government accuses the US of being behind the strikes on Al Harra and Qaim

Beirut: Syrian state media, citing a military source, reported early on Monday that US-led coalition aircraft had bombed “one of our military positions” in eastern Syria, leading to deaths and injuries.

The strike took place in Al Harra, southeast of Al Bu Kamal, it reported.

A commander in the military alliance backing Syrian President Bashar Al Assad also told Reuters that drones, “probably American,” had bombed positions of Iraqi factions between Al Bu Kamal and Tanf and Syrian military positions.

Meanwhile, Iraqi officials said and additional 20 Shiite paramilitaries were killed in the strikes just on the other side of the border.

In Baghdad, Iraqi officials said Popular Mobilisation Forces – the mostly Shiite state-sanctioned paramilitaries – came under attack south of the town of Qaim, just across the border from Al Bu Kamal.

They said 20 fighters were killed and dozens were wounded, adding that the cause of the attack was not immediately clear.

The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes was one of the deadliest on forces allied with Syria’s government, putting the total number killed at 38.

US military spokesman Col. Sean Ryan said the coalition was looking into the reports.

“We are aware of the strike, however there have been no strikes by US or coalition forces in that area,” he said.

“We’re looking into who that could possibly be but it wasn’t the US or the coalition.”

Syrian and Iraqi forces have driven Daesh from virtually all the territory it once held in both countries, but the militants still control some remote areas along the border.

Syrian troops and allied militias, backed by Russian air strikes, have been conducting operations west of the Euphrates River, while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, is operating on the eastern banks.

The US-led coalition has struck pro-government forces in the past when they have tried to cross the river.

The overnight attacks took place on the western side.

The US-led coalition is supporting an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish militia fighting Daesh northeast of Al Bu Kamal.

The Syrian army, alongside allied Iran-backed militias including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraqi groups, drove Daesh from Al Bu Kamal and its environs last year, but the militants have since staged attacks in the area.

US forces are also based in Tanf, southwest of Al Bu Kamal in the Syrian desert near the borders of Iraq and Jordan.

Last week, Al Assad said he regarded the United States as an occupying power in Syria and that the position of his state was to “support any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces, regardless of their nationality.”


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