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U.S. Downplays Russian Plane Shoot-Down, Vows To Continue Fight Against IS

A Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft (file photo)

The United States is trying to downplay the shoot-down of a Russian military surveillance plane off the Syrian coast, with officials expressing sorrow but also saying the U.S. campaign against Islamic State fighters would continue.

The comments on September 18 came as Russian officials said that Syrian antiaircraft forces brought down the Il-20 plane inadvertently, but also blamed Israel for conducting a fighter jet raid on Syrian forces at around the same time.

U.S. officials said U.S. forces had no role to play in the incident.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement expressing sorrow for the incident, which killed 15 Russian servicemen. And he also criticized Iran, which has reportedly shipped sophisticated weaponry to the Hizballah fighters in Lebanon.

Israel has struck targets in both Lebanon and Syria, seeking to thwart Hizballah's ambitions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, meanwhile, told reporters that the shoot-down complicates relations between Syria and Russia but would have "no effect whatever" on the U.S. campaign to defeat Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Mattis also said the incident was a reminder of why the U.S. supports the United Nations' effort to end the seven-year civil war.

President Donald Trump also expressed concern about the downed Russian plane, calling it a "very sad thing" and "not a good situation."

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against conducting air raids on Syria.

And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Putin to express sorrow over the plane's loss but insisted that Syria bore responsibility

With reporting by AP and Reuters