By Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is still unsure who directed a Feb. 7 attack on U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday, even as he acknowledged accounts that Russian civilian contractors were involved. Reuters has reported that about 300 men working for a Kremlin-linked Russian private military firm were either killed or injured in Syria. The U.S. has estimated about 100 pro-Syrian government forces were killed by U.S. strikes to repel the Feb. 7 attack. Russian military officers told the United States during the incident that Moscow was not involved. The Pentagon has declined to comment on the exact makeup of the attacking forces and Mattis appeared at a loss to explain the incident 10 days later. “I still cannot give you any more information on why they would do this. But they took direction from someone,” Mattis told reporters flying back to Washington with him from a trip to Europe, according to a Pentagon transcript. “Was it local direction? Was it from external sources? Don’t ask me. I don’t know.” Mattis said he “understood” that Moscow had acknowledged contractors were involved, without elaborating on whether that understanding came from press reports. Russian… Read full this story
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