At least four American soldiers have been killed in an apparent suicide bombing in northern Syria claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, the U.S. military has said, BBC reported.
The terrorist organization said a militant had detonated an explosive vest next to a U.S. patrol in the Kurdish-held town of Manbij. Two U.S soldiers, a civilian employee at the defence department and a contractor died, U.S. Central Command said.
Wednesday’s attack took place at a restaurant near Manbij’s main market. The U.S. troops were at the restaurant to meet members of the Manbij Military Council, a witness told Reuters news agency.
“Two US service members, one department of defence (DoD) civilian and one contractor supporting DoD were killed and three service members were injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij,” the U.S. military said in a statement.
Last month, President Donald Trump announced that the US would begin pulling out all its 2,000 troops from Syria because IS had been “defeated”. Opponents of the withdrawal stressed that although IS now controlled only 1% of the territory they overran five years ago, the group had not disappeared entirely.
Despite a flood of criticism from lawmakers and security experts, the withdrawal process from Syria is now underway, according to the Pentagon, which has not disclosed details on a timeline or withdrawal numbers for “operational security” reasons, CNBC informs.
However, the latest attack is likely to complicate the U.S. withdrawal, or potentially accelerate it, depending on the response of the American president.
A recent report said there were still as many as 14,000 IS militants in Syria and even more in neighbouring Iraq – and that they were expected to shift to guerrilla tactics in an attempt to rebuild their network.
Syrian Kurds also fear that Manbij and other towns they control near the border with Turkey might come under attack by the Turkish military, which wants to clear them of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.
The Turkish government considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades. However, it denies any direct organizational links to the group.