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U.S. general says Russia responsible for attack on aid convoy in Syria

By The Associated Press

This article was published September 22, 2016 at 11:43 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The nation's top U.S. military officer told lawmakers Thursday there's no doubt in his mind that Russia is responsible for the airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, and he called the attack an "unacceptable atrocity."

U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that there were two Russian aircraft in the area of the strike when it happened. Syrian government aircraft were also nearby, he said. Dunford said he's not certain which of the two Russian aircraft dropped the bombs, which killed 20 civilians.

During a wide-ranging hearing, Dunford also said President Barack Obama's administration is considering directly arming the Syrian Kurds whom the U.S. has been backing in the fight against the Islamic State.

"They are our most effective partner on the ground," Dunford said of the battle-hardened Kurds, who are senior partners in an opposition group the U.S. calls the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Dunford said it "is very difficult" to manage the balance between supporting the Kurds and dealing with the Turkish government's adamant opposition to that support. Turkey sees the Kurds as a long-term political threat.

Asked whether arming the Syrian Kurds is a viable military option, despite the Turkish government's opposition, Dunford said "reinforcing" the Syrian Democratic Forces' military capabilities "will increase the prospects of our success" in enabling the recapture of Raqqa, the defacto Islamic State capital in Syria.

Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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