Pen­tagon: Amer­i­can among two coali­tion mem­bers killed in Syria

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

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)

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