US jet destroys Putin tank in Syria
Massive raids ‘kill hundreds of fighters, dozens of Russian mercenaries secretly fighting there’
A US fighter jet has destroyed a Russian tank in Syria – after it emerged that hundreds of Russian mercenaries are secretly fighting in the country.
The US jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 tank during a bombing raid designed to protect rebel fighters in Syria on Saturday, reportedly killing hundreds of Russian mercenaries.
If that proves true, it would be the biggest clash between American and Russian forces since the end of the Cold War – and represent an escalation of tensions between the world’s two most powerful armed forces who are engaged in a war by proxy in Syria.
The tank was targeted near al-Tabiyeh in a bid to stop it firing towards a position held by American forces and their Syrian allies, a Pentagon spokesman said.
It happened days after the US military said its anti-jihadist coalition had carried out strikes in “self-defence” against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the same region, leaving an estimated more than 100 pro-regime personnel dead.
The tank had been “maneuvering with coordinated indirect fire” on a position held by Syrian Democratic Forces — a US backed rebel movement that has been battling ISIS.
While America has been training and equipping SDF rebels during the brutal civil war in Syria, Russia has been backing forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad operating nearby.
US Marine Corps major Adrian JT Rankine-Galloway said the SDF’s ‘position was within effective range of the hostile weapons systems”.
There was no death or injury among the SDF or coalition units following the tank attack, he added. The T-72 is a Soviet battle tank that entered production in 1971. About 20,000 were built with many exported and entering service in 40 countries and in numerous conflicts around the world.
On February 7, US Central Command said the coalition had carried out strikes to counter an “unprovoked attack against well-established SDF headquarters”. “We estimate more than 100 Syrian proregime forces were killed while engaging SDF and coalition forces,” while one SDF member was wounded, a US military official said.
According to CENTCOM, “coalition service members in an advise, assist, and accompany capacity were co-located with SDF partners during the attack”. “The coalition conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression,” it said.
The US military official said the attack — which began on Wednesday — involved some 500 personnel from “proregime” forces armed with tanks, artillery and mortars.
The SDF and the coalition targeted the attacking forces with air and artillery strikes after “20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 meters of the SDF headquarters location”, the official said. The official did not specifically identify the attacking forces, which could have been Syrian or from one of a number of allied militia units, including from Iraq and Lebanon, that are backing Assad in the civil war.
Russia is carrying out strikes in support of Assad, who has received substantial support from Iran as well. CENTCOM said the attack occurred eight kilometres east of the Euphrates River de-confliction line, referring to a boundary agreed to by Russia and the US, with the former's area of operations to the west of the river and the latter's to its east.
Tank was designed to protect rebel fighters
(Above) Members of the Syrian Democratic Force which is backed by the US; (left) a top shot of the T-72 tank moments before it was hit.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.