Russian attack on Syrian market may be war crime: UN

Russian forces were behind a deadly strike on a crowded market in Syria late last year, UN investigators said Tuesday (March 6th), warning that the attack could amount to a "war crime", AFP reported.

The airstrikes on a market in opposition-held Atareb in northern Syria last November 13th killed at least 84 people, including five children, and injured around 150 others, the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Syria said in its latest report.

"The commission confirmed the use of unguided blast weapons by Russian aircraft in a civilian populated area," commission chief Paulo Pinheiro said.

He pointed to a "large body of evidence", including interviews with witnesses and forensic analysis of photos, videos and images of weapons remnants, satellite images and impact analysis, to support the commission's findings.

The war crimes investigators acknowledged there was "no evidence to indicate that the ... attack deliberately targeted civilians or the Atareb market".

But they stressed that "the use of unguided bombs, including blast weapons, in a densely civilian populated area may amount to the war crime of launching indiscriminate attacks".

Pinheiro pointed out that the use of certain weapons in civilian areas "automatically amounts to (a) war crime ... because of the nature of the weapons used".

Also on Tuesday, a Russian transport plane crashed on landing at Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Syria, killing all 32 on board, the defence ministry said in a statement carried by RIA Novosti.

There were 26 passengers and six crew on board, the ministry said.

"The reason for the crash according to preliminary information could have been a technical fault," the ministry added, saying the plane had not come under fire.

The transporter was around 500 metres from the runway, the statement said.

The latest accident comes after a Sukhoi military jet crashed while trying to take off from Hmeimim in October last year, killing two crew.

Russia's most recent officially acknowledged military loss in battle in Syria was last month when a pilot was killed after his plane was downed over Idlib province.

Russia's official military losses in the war before the crash were 45.

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