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PM Theresa May denies UK targeted Syrians killed in air strike

By David Hughes

Published 20/09/2016

Theresa May
Theresa May

Theresa May said the UK would "never intentionally strike or focus on Syrian forces" after Britain admitted being part of a coalition air attack that is claimed to have killed dozens of President Bashar al-Assad's troops.

The Prime Minister said the UK would co-operate 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 Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, which is not covered by the ceasefire agreement.

It is understood Britain's participation involved an unmanned RAF Reaper drone.

Speaking at the United Nations HQ in New York, Mrs May told broadcasters: "The UK was part of the coalition air strike that took place. We are now part of the investigation and it's right that this is properly investigated.

"But, from the UK's point of view, we are there to deal with Daesh, to deal with the terrorist threat that is Daesh.

"We would never intentionally strike or focus on Syrian forces."

Russia, president Bashar al-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 UN, with the ambassadors of both countries storming out of an emergency session of the Security Council.

Vitaly 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 IS and that it had left a "very big question mark" over the peace deal.

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