New information has emerged surrounding a conflict between U.S. forces and Russian mercenaries in Syria last week that left at least 300 Russians dead. Reports indicate that the Russian military contractors appeared to be testing the U.S.
Bloomberg first reported this week that Russian military contractors took part in what the US called an "unprovoked attack" on a well-known headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel cohort the US has trained, equipped, and fought alongside for years.
Reuters cited several sources on Friday as confirming that Russian contractors were among the attackers and that they took heavy losses. The purpose of the attack, which saw 500 or so pro-government fighters get close to the US-backed position in Syria, was to test the US's response, Reuters' sources said.
According to Reuter's source, someone close to Russian military contracting firm Wagner, the majority of those 500 fighters were Russian contractors, and the attack was launched within a designated neutral zone to gauge American response to such an action.
Forces operating Russian-made T-55 and T-72 tanks fired 20 to 30 tank rounds within 500 feet of the SDF base, which held some US troops, said Dana White, the Pentagon press secretary, according to the executive editor of Defense One.
The US-led coalition responded with "AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships, and Marine Corps artillery," according to Lucas Tomlinson, a Fox News reporter. CNN also reported that Himars and MQ-9 drones were used in the attack.
The Reuters report cites an unnamed source as describing Bloomberg's report that 300 Russians died as "broadly correct."