Details are still spotty, but a suicide bomber has killed U.S. military personnel and others in a terrorist attack inside the northern Syrian city of Manbij. A mysterious gray Sikorsky S-92 helicopter linked to U.S. special operations forces in the region swooped in afterward to evacuate casualties. All of this comes as the United States moves ahead with plans to withdraw from the country entirely.
The attack occurred around 12:40 PM local time on Jan. 16, 2019 on a busy street in Manbij near a market. Unconfirmed reports from the U.S.-backed Manbij Military Council and the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say that there may be more than two dozen dead and wounded, including up to four American troops.
This appears to be the first major terrorist attack in the city proper since American-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) liberated it from ISIS in 2016. In March 2018, a roadside bomb near Manbij did kill a U.S. special operations forces member, as well as a British counterpart, but the perpetrators of that attack remain unclear. Another American special operator died during a mission died in Raqqa in 2016. There were also been two non-combat related fatalities among U.S. personnel in Syria in 2017. There have been other coalition casualties in Syria, as well, including French special operations forces member near Raqqa in September 2017.
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) January 16, 2019
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Manbij bombing through one of its official websites, Amaq, and said the specific target was “foreign” personnel. There is no independent confirmation of the group’s direct involvement, but if true, this would be a clear indicator that the terrorists remain a significant threat despite having lost control of nearly all of the physical territory the “Islamic State” once held.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the top U.S.-led force fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, “is aware of open source reports regarding an explosion in Syria,” according to an initial statement from the official Twitter account for the Task Force’s top spokesperson, U.S. Army Colonel Sean Ryan. “Coalition forces conducted a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”
“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today,” a subsequent Tweet read, though it did not say how many fatalities there were in total. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”
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