The United States has expressed regret over one of its fighter jets shooting down a Turkish drone in north-eastern Syria.
An American F-16 fighter aircraft shot down a Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle that had been observed conducting airstrikes in a U.S.-restricted operating zone about a kilometer from U.S. forces in Syria on Thursday.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a media briefing that at around 7:30 a.m. local time, U.S. forces observed UAVs conducting airstrikes in the vicinity of Hasakah, a city in the northeastern corner of Syria.
Some of the strikes were inside a declared U.S.-restricted operating zone, according to him.
“At approximately 11:30 local time, a Turkish UAV reentered the ROZ on a heading toward where U.S. forces were located,” Ryder told reporters. “U.S. commanders assessed that the UAV, which was now less than a half a kilometer from U.S. forces, to be a potential threat, and U.S. F-16 fighters subsequently shot down the UAV in self-defense at approximately 11:40 local time.”
No U.S. forces were injured, Ryder said, also adding there is no indication that Turkey had intentionally been targeting U.S. forces.
While admitting that it was “a regrettable incident”, the top Pentagon official tried to justify the military action saying, “U.S. commanders on the ground did assess that there was a potential threat and so they took prudent action in this scenario”.
Ryder said U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called his Turkish counterpart Yasar Guler in the wake of the shooting. “The two leaders discussed the incident and agreed that while it is regrettable, the focus must remain on the important mission to defeat ISIS in Syria.”
Turkey’s airstrikes were believed to be part of a series of air raids targeting the Kurdish separatist group PKK and YPG in northern Syria on Thursday.
These incidents come at a time of mounting tensions between the NATO allies.
Meanwhile, more than 100 people were killed in a terrorist drone attack on a Syrian military academy, news agencies reported Friday.
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