|Middle East Eye | Apr 13, 2017|
|Syrian Defence Force in northern Syria (AFP)|
A coalition air strike accidentally killed 18 members of a US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance fighting the Islamic State group near a key town in northern Syria, the US-led coalition said Thursday.
Tuesday's strike occurred south of Tabqa, a strategically important town on the Euphrates River next to a dam and military airport, and close to the Islamic State group stronghold of Raqqa.
"The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position," a coalition statement read.
"The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position."
SDF troops backed by coalition air power and other military assistance have been fighting for control of Tabqa since last month.
The town is considered an important waypoint ahead of the main offensive for Raqqa, the IS group's last bastion in Syria.
The coalition offered its "deepest condolences" to the members of the SDF and their families.
"The coalition is in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident," the statement said.
Officials were assessing the cause and would "implement appropriate safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future," the statement added.
The SDF is a local Arab-Kurdish force that the US-led coalition is supporting with arms, air strikes, training and advice as they fight IS.
Last month, a spokeswoman for US-backed Syrian militias told AFP that it had enough forces to capture the city of Raqqa from IS with support from the US-led coalition, underlining their opposition to any Turkish role in the attack.
Friendly fire against SDF forces by the US coalition comes after US President Donald Trump last week unleashed more than 50 Tomahawk missiles against an airbase controlled by the Syrian government.
Since the air strikes, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the AFP that the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun was a "100 percent fabrication".