USA vows investigation into Syria attack involving Russians

Dozens of Russian CIS citizens killed & injured in recent clashes in Syria – Foreign Ministry

At issue is a February 7 incident in Deir ez-Zour province, where pro-Syrian regime forces and US -backed forces have been converging to eliminate Syria's last remaining pockets of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has admitted that "several dozens" of its nationals were injured in recent clashes with USA -led forces in Syria, days after acknowledging five deaths in the battle.

"We are not against Kurds in Turkey, we are not against Kurds in Iran, in Iraq and Syria.", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavasoglu said at a security conference in Germany.

"But they took directions from someone".

"I understand that the Russian government now is saying that some of their not-military forces, contractors, were involved in that still unexplained attack", Mr Mattis said while flying back to Washington after a week-long tour of Europe, adding that Russian officers the U.S. co-ordinated with were "apparently" unaware. Was it from external sources?

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"I doubt that 257 people all just decided on their individual own selves to suddenly cross the river into enemy territory and start shelling a location and maneuvering tanks against it", Mattis said. "There are citizens of Russian Federation and the CIS countries among those killed, which had been earlier reported, and there are also wounded individuals - several dozen of them", the ministry said in a comment.

The military began a partial withdrawal from Syria in December on orders by President Vladimir Putin, soon after Syrian troops completed the destruction of the main Islamic State terrorist forces in the war-torn country.

"So, whatever happened, we'll try to figure it out".

Still, Russian officials deny they deploy private military contractors in Syria, saying Moscow's only military presence is a campaign of air strikes, a naval base, military instructors training Syrian forces, and limited numbers of special forces troops. We'll work with, obviously, anyone who can answer that question, but I cannot, at this time.

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