Syrian pro-government forces patrol in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour in November. AFP/Getty Images hide caption
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A punishing series of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria last week reportedly killed an unknown number of Russian mercenaries fighting on behalf of the Damascus regime, with some sources saying there were “dozens” of casualties.
The Pentagon says a counterattack aimed at defending U.S. forces in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province a week ago went on for more than three hours and involved B-52 strategic bombers, AC-130 gunships, F-15E attack planes, Apache attack helicopters and Reaper drones.
As we reported at the time, U.S. military officials say they were in contact with Russian counterparts during the attack and were assured that Russia would not engage coalition forces in the vicinity.
Russia officially withdrew regular forces from Syria in December after two years of fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad, but hundreds of private military contractors and mercenaries remained.
A Syrian military officer says about 100 Syrian soldiers were killed on Feb. 7 and 8. Russian media has cited unconfirmed claims that the number of dead is as high