U.S. Troops Killed By Blast In Syria; Islamic State Claims Responsibility

U.S. Troops Killed By Blast In Syria; Islamic State Claims Responsibility

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that targeted the US-led coalition in the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday that killed at least two U.S. service members.

There were mixed reports about how many Americans died in the blast in the northern Syria town of Manbij, with one USA official saying four were killed while others said two had died.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the blast occurred near a patrol of the USA -led coalition.

The dead included nine civilians and at least five PKK-linked People's Protection Forces (YPG) terrorists, according to the SOHR.

Trump claimed on December 19 that the USA and its allies had "beaten" IS, and he ordered an immediate troop withdrawal from the war-torn country.

Advisers then launched a weeks-long lobbying effort in an attempt to get Trump to change his mind or slow the withdrawal, and defense officials have reminded the president that the Islamic State continues to wage stiff resistance in eastern Syria, while maintaining the ability to launch strikes elsewhere in the country.

Nearly eight years into Syria's civil war, Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Syrian Kurdish fighters it views as "terrorists" on its southern flank. The coalition's military operation in Syria has been approved neither by Damascus nor by the UN. "We've taken back the land and now it's time for our troops to come back home". Another video showed a helicopter flying over the area.

It is the first major attack that explicitly targets USA forces in Syria since Mr Trump announced that he would be withdrawing troops from the country.

The ISIS-run news site Amaq claimed "that the attack was carried out by a member of the group wearing a suicide vest", according to CBS News.

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The Syrian Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) reported that the U.S. soldiers were subsequently evacuated by a helicopter that landed on a playground.

Up until now, USA forces have only suffered two casualties since the United States started bombing Syria in the fall of 2014.

Videos released by local activists and news agencies showed a restaurant that suffered extensive damage and a street covered with debris and blood. The attack will inevitably raise questions about how strong the group remains, and could create public pressure for European countries including France to withdraw if their forces died in the attack.

Trump's December 19 announcement was one of the reasons his defence secretary, Jim Mattis, resigned.

"My concern, by the statement by President Trump, is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting", Graham said during a hearing in Washington.

Manbij is the main town on the westernmost edge of Syrian territory held by the USA -backed Syrian Kurds, running along the border with Turkey.

Graham's dramatic statement associating Trump's words with the bloody attack that killed Americans came from a loyalist who has golfed frequently with the president, although he has also tried to the president out of a policy he has called unsafe to Americans.

"Fighting other people's civil wars is not the mission of the USA armed forces", counseled Colonel Douglas Macgregor, who has been previously considered for the national security advisor position.

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