At least three Syrian soldiers were reported to have been killed during a bombing raid by the international coalition against the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria. But the US has denied the reports.
The US-led coalition against the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) denied reports that its jet fighters had carried out air raids that resulted in the deaths of at least three Syrian regime troops on December 6.
"We've seen those Syrian reports but we did not conduct any strikes in that part of Deir el-Zour yesterday. So we see no evidence," said Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the coalition.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), an independent organization based in the UK that monitors the Syrian civil war, reported that an airstrike conducted by the US-led coalition had hit the Saeqa army camp near the town of Ayyash in the west of Deir el-Zour province, "around two kilometers from an area controlled by the Islamic State group." The province is believed to be held in large parts by "Islamic State".
"Regime forces have never previously been hit by raids from the international coalition, which was targeting jihadist bases and oil tankers in Deir el-Zour," Observatory director Osama Suleiman, who is more widely known by the pen-name Rami Abdurrahman, claimed.
The organization said that this would the first time a strike by the coalition had killed Syrian government troops and added that 13 people had also been injured in the alleged incident.
Differing account of events
Reuters news agency reported that a source close to the Syrian government had confirmed the incident, validating reports that there had been casualties. The DPA news agency corroborated the account, saying that the Syrian Foreign Ministry had condemned the attack as "blatant aggression."
Osama Suleiman told the DPA news agency that his organization knew "for sure" that the strike had not been launched by Russian planes "because Moscow is an ally of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad's regime."
But Colonel Warren stressed that the only air strikes in the region on that date had been 55 kilometres (34 miles) southeast of the area where the troops were alleged to have been killed.
"We struck 55 km away from the area that the Syrians say was struck. That was the only area in Deir el-Zourwe struck yesterday," he told the AFP news agency.
"There were no human beings in the area that we struck yesterday, all we struck was a wellhead," he added.
Ramped-up air campaign
Deir el-Zour is regarded as a key province in the fight against IS, as the province provides a link between Raqqa, widely seen as current IS headquarters, and a number of Syria's oil fields - a major source of revenue for IS. But large parts of the territory are still held by regime forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The SOHR claimed that fighter jets also hit positions in Raqqa province, killing at least 49 militants. In another nearby city, an air strike attributed to coalition forces was reported to have killed a woman and two of her children overnight, according to the Observatory.
The air campaign in Syria has expanded recently after the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13, which were claimed by IS.
The conflict in Syria, which began in 2011, has taken the lives of more than 250,000 people to date, prompting at least four million people to flee the country.
ss/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)