Two U.S. service members, a defense contractor and a Department of Defense civilian were killed in an attack Wednesday near Syria’s border with Turkey — a bombing claimed by the Islamic State terror group, officials said.
U.S. Central Command confirmed the four deaths in a statement, adding three service members were also injured in the explosion, which occurred while the service members were conducting a local engagement in Manbij, a key city in northern Syria patrolled by a U.S.-led coalition.
The soldiers died at a busy restaurant. The explosion happened when a suicide bomber approached coalition forces and blew himself up.
Video footage showed an explosion on a busy street and what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter evacuating the injured.
The Islamic State — also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh — claimed credit for the attack on its news website Amaq.
Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed the deaths of soldiers, saying in a Twitter post coalition members were conducting a “routine patrol” in the area.
“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” OIR wrote.
Manbij is an area that’s patrolled by U.S. troops backing the Syrian Democratic Forces. Wednesday’s attack is the first to include U.S. casualties since President Donald Trump announced a full U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
That announcement led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and calls from Republican legislators like U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for Trump to reconsider. Since then, national security adviser John Bolton has said the pullout will be based on conditions that protect Kurdish fighters, who’ve been part of the U.S.-led coalition.
“Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country.”
ByClyde Hughes, Danielle Haynes and Daniel Uria