'Syrian Government Troops Killed In Airstrike Involving UK'
British forces took part in a coalition air strike which the Syrian government claimed killed dozens of its troops, threatening the country's fragile ceasefire, the Ministry of Defence has said.
An MoD spokesman said they were "fully co-operating" with the investigation by the US-led coalition into the attack on Saturday near the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.
The United States has accepted its aircraft may have accidentally hit a Syrian government position during an attack on the so-called Islamic State (IS), which is not covered by the ceasefire agreement.
Australia and Denmark have also said that their planes were involved in the strike. It is understood Britain's participation involved an unmanned RAF Reaper drone. The MoD spokesman said:
"We can confirm that the UK participated in the coalition air strike south of Deir el-Zour on Saturday, and we are fully co-operating with the coalition investigation... The UK would not intentionally target Syrian military units. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage."
Russia - president Bashar Assad's main foreign backer - said it had been told by the Syrian government that 62 of its troops had been killed in the strike.
The Syrian military said the coalition aircraft had hit a base which was surrounded by IS, enabling the militants to overrun their positions.
The incident led to furious exchanges between Russia and the US at the United Nations in New York, with the ambassadors of both countries storming out of an emergency session of the Security Council.
Vitali Churkin, the Russian ambassador who called the meeting, said it was suspicious the incident had happened just two days before US and Russian forces were supposed to begin co-ordinated strikes against the Islamists and that it had left a "very big question mark" over the peace deal.
US ambassador Samantha Power expressed regret for the loss of life but dismissed the summoning of the Security Council as a "stunt", accusing Moscow of "moralism and grandstanding" that was "uniquely typical and hypocritical".
The row erupted amid mounting reports of ceasefire violations - including airstrikes by Syrian government forces on rebel-held areas of the beleaguered city of Aleppo.