Iraq airstrike on Kurdish fighters kills 15, US officials say

An air strike in Iraq on Sunday night has killed 15 Kurdish fighters, US officials said on Monday.

The strike was in Iraq near Mount Sinjar in the Sinjar Mountains where Kurdish officials say about 14,000 of their fighters are located as part of a US-backed US-backed effort to protect western Sinjar against ISIS.

“The intention was to directly attack the zone of Kurdish forces defending Sinjar from an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 foreign ISIS fighters and further the mission to defeat the [terrorist group],” a senior US official said on Monday. “This was a tactical error resulting in the death of approximately 15 Iraqi Kurds.”

The US president, Donald Trump, whose administration is struggling to convince the international community of the necessity of Syrian military action to retake the ISIS-held town of Raqqa, accused Russian-backed Syrian government forces of placing Kurdish fighters in front of the al-Assad regime and the US.

“A beautiful, but faulty report has just been put out by the Fake News Media regarding an American strike on Syria,” Trump said on Twitter on Monday night. “The Syrian government, which poses no danger to the United States, was not hit. The target was ISIS. Many lives were lost, but the Syrian government, which poses no danger to us, was not involved. The Fake News Media will never be happy!”

Trump said that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad had completely vaporized a “beautiful” funeral for his father in a March 2013 speech, though it was not immediately clear where he got that information.

“We’re not doing it so we can get a good story out of the fake news media,” Trump said. “They don’t like that.”

Defense secretary James Mattis has said that the US will only work with a “partner nation” that has given assurances not to give aid to Kurdish fighters – the Turkish government has objected to the military alliance because of its support of Kurdish YPG militia groups that are present along the border with Turkey. The US has attempted to forge a new relationship with Turkey since Trump’s election win.

The US official said: “Daesh fighters have been placed in harm’s way and Syrian government forces have posed danger to local civilians. Our goal is to prevent these forces from taking actions that provide our enemy a propaganda coup and undercut the fight against Daesh.”

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