Pentagon: American among two coalition members killed in Syria
An American was among two members of the US-led anti-terror coalition killed by an improvised explosive device in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, the US military and a monitor said on Friday.
Five other coalition members were wounded, the Pentagon said.
The attack in Manbij, a city where US personnel are stationed, happened late Thursday — the day US President Donald Trump said he would pull out forces “very soon.”
“Two coalition personnel were killed and five were wounded by an improvised explosive device in Syria” at around midnight (2100 GMT), the coalition said in a statement which gave no further details about the victims.
A Pentagon official identified one of them as being American.
The nationality of the second fatality was not released, said the official, adding that the victim was not French.
Since 2014 the coalition has provided weapons, training and other support to forces fighting Daesh in Syria and Iraq.
This latest incident brings the number of US personnel killed in action during the operation to 14.
No group immediately responsibility for the attack.
The US-led coalition said it was withholding details on the circumstances of the attack pending further investigation. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the attack hit a convoy in the heart of Manbij, also wounding four members of the local council.
Manbij used to be a hub for Daesh terrorists when their self-styled “caliphate” was at its peak. It was retaken by Kurdishled forces backed by the coalition.
Located between the northern city of Aleppo and the western bank of the Euphrates, less than 30 km south of the Turkish border, Manbij lies where several international influence zones meet claimed and risks becoming a new flashpoint.
The US has more than 2,000 military personnel in eastern Syria, working with local militia groups to defeat Daesh while trying to keep out of Syria’s broader civil war.
Also on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron met a delegation from the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Kurdish official Asya Abdullah said afterwards that France was planning to send “new French troops to Manbij.” She said the cooperation “will be reinforced.”
The presidency did not explicitly deny the reinforcements, but stressed it was not planning any military operation in Syria outside the US-led coalition.
“France is not planning any new military operation on the ground in northern Syria outside the international coalition against Daesh,” Macron’s office said in a statement.
Khaled Issa, the official representative in France of Syria’s Kurdistan, had added: “France is going to reinforce its military presence.”
The comments added to heightened international tensions as Turkey wages an offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria whom it views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged an insurgency inside Turkey.
Ankara launched an air and ground offensive in Afrin in January to oust the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Kurdish fighters who make up the bulk of the SDF, viewed as terrorists by Turkey.
Turkey has threatened to expand its military operation against Kurdish fighters, who ousted Daesh from the town of Manbij near the Turkish border, and repeated the threat on Wednesday.
But the US-led coalition fighting extremists in Syria, of which France is a member, sees the YPG as a key player in the fight against Daesh and has warned that Turkey’s operation risks distracting from that battle.
Macron had on Thursday offered to help establish a “dialogue” between the SDF and Turkey “with help from France and the international community” — an idea angrily rejected by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday.
US troops have increased their patrols in the northern Syrian city of Manbij to prevent an outbreak of fighting in the area, local commanders say. (AP)