DAMASCUS: At least four US troops have been killed in a suicide bomb attack claimed by Isis in Syria.
A US official who declined to be named said four American troops had been killed and three wounded in the blast on Wednesday, which an Islamic State-affiliated website said was the work of a suicide bomber. Other sources said that only two had been killed.
The US-led coalition fighting the Islamist militant group said that “US service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol” and that it was still gathering details.
The attack, which took place in the town of Manbij, controlled by rebels opposed to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, appears to be the deadliest on US forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said that only two US troops had previously been killed in action in Syria. And there had been two additional non-combat fatalities.
Last month, Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria after concluding that Islamic State had been defeated there.
The president’s announcement helped trigger the resignation of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, just before Christmas. It stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
On Wednesday, a witness in Manbij said the attack had targeted a restaurant where American military personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group initially said 16 people had been killed in all, including two Americans. A militia source in north Syria also said two US troops had been killed, while the Kurdish Hawar news agency, based in northern Syria, said three US troops were dead, as details were filtering out from the scene of the attack.
Islamic State later put out a statement saying a Syrian fighter had detonated his explosive vest while targeting a foreign patrol in Manbij.