Although the Coalition has yet to officially identify the casualties, a number of news outlets have already reported them as American and British. Fox News and Reuters cited a US military official, while Sky News cited the UK Ministry of Defence.
This was the first casualty the US military sustained in Syria, according to Fox. Five other troops were injured in the explosion on March 29. Their identities have not been made available.
A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) – the official name of the US-led military operation against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria – confirmed in a brief statement on Thursday that “two Coalition personnel were killed and five were wounded by an improvised explosive device in Syria.”
The blast took place near Manbij, a city in the northeast of Aleppo governorate, two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters. Manbij was liberated from IS in August 2016, by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the majority of whom are Kurds. Turkey has objected to the SDF presence in Manbij, as Ankara considers the Kurdish militias terrorists.
OIR said the names of slain service members “will be released at the discretion of the pertinent national authorities,”adding details of the incident are being withheld “pending further investigation.”
The news came just a day after US President Donald Trump promised to pull out American troops from Syria, where they are stationed without approval from Damascus or an internationally recognized mandate.
Two @CJTFOIR personnel were killed and five wounded by an improvised explosive device March 29 in Syria. Our prayers are with their families, friends and fellow service members. Names of the deceased will be released at discretion of national authorities. pic.twitter.com/k7nnmdcWMV— OIR Spokesman (@OIRSpox) March 30, 2018
“We're coming out of Syria very soon. Let the other people take care of it now,”Trump said during a speech in Richfield, Ohio on Thursday.
His announcement appeared to contradict what the Pentagon has said and done for months, however. On December 5, 2017, a Defense Department spokesman announced that US troops will remain stationed in Syria indefinitely.
“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” said spokesman Eric Pahon.
Two days later, the Defense Department announced that there were 2,000 US troops in Syria, a four-fold increase from the previously acknowledged 500, justifying their presence by the need “to combat the threat of insurgent-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIS and to stabilize liberated areas.”
Damascus has consistently opposed US military presence on its territory saying the Americans’ deployment was a breach of Syria’s sovereignty. Syrian President Bashar Assad has called the US troops “invaders.”
“We will knock on every diplomatic door, because [the] American military presence in Syria is illegal,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in 2017.
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