Tue | Feb 19, 2019

US military says service members killed in Syria blast

Published:Thursday | January 17, 2019 | 12:00 AM

BEIRUT (AP):

A number of US troops were killed in an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria on Wednesday, the US military said, an attack that came less than a month after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from the war torn country.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the morning attack, which local groups said killed 16 people in the US-patrolled town of Manbij.

The claim calls into question Trump's claim that IS has been defeated in Syria - his stated reason for pulling 2,000 American troops out of the country.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump tweeted in December in announcing his intention to bring back US troops "NOW."

Vice-president Mike Pence repeated the claim Wednesday, saying the Islamic State "caliphate has crumbled" and the militant network "has been defeated". His comments in a speech at the State Department came shortly after the US military announced that American soldiers were among those killed in Manbij.

Video released by local activists and news agencies showed a restaurant that suffered extensive damage and a street covered with debris and blood. Several cars were also damaged. Another video showed a helicopter flying over the area.

A security camera showed a busy street, and then a ball of fire engulfing people, and others running for cover, as the blast went off.

Trump's shifting timetable for pulling US troops out of Syria, a country he described as "sand and death," has left allies and other players in the region confused and jockeying for influence over a withdrawal strategy that appeared to be a work in progress.