CIA chief confirms U.S. strike killed ‘hundreds’ of Russian mercenaries in Syria

CIA Director Mike Pompeo confirmed Thursday that U.S. forces killed “a couple hundred” Russian mercenary troops in Syria in a strike earlier this year that he said sent a distinct signal to Moscow.

Mr. Pompeo was testifying to the Senate as he seeks to win the top post at the State Department, after President Trump nominated him to replace outgoing Secretary Rex Tillerson.

Being prodded on U.S. policy toward Russia and what Democrats said appeared to be a weak approach to Moscow, Mr. Pompeo said lawmakers need to look beyond sanctions to understand the full array of conflict and pressure.

As one example he pointed to the February skirmish. Press reports say Russian mercenaries that appear to be backed by the Kremlin, and who are aligned with Syria’s government in its battle against U.S.-backed insurgents, tried to gain ground in an area where U.S. forces were.

An American-led counterattack repulsed the offensive.

Mr. Pompeo didn’t get into details but did say “a couple hundred” Russians were killed.

He also said Russia has not yet gotten the full message about U.S. determination to block aggression from Moscow.

“Vladimir Putin’s not yet received the message sufficiently. We need continue to work at that,” he said.