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2 US service members, 2 US civilians killed in Syria blast

Two U.S. service members and two American civilians were among those killed in an explosion while conducting a patrol in Syria on Wednesday.

Posted: Jan 16, 2019 3:20 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — Two U.S. service members and two American civilians were among those killed in an explosion while conducting a patrol in Syria on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, an attack that came less than a month after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the morning attack, which local groups said killed 16 people in the U.S.-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 U.S. 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 U.S. military announced that American soldiers were among those killed in Manbij.

U.S. Central Command said one of the civilians was employed by the Defense Department and the other was a contractor. The names of the American victims were being withheld until their families could be notified.

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 U.S. 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.

Critics have said a pullout was premature, that IS was still not defeated and a withdrawal could lead to a power vacuum that would fuel even more violence. It also led to the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

Since then, U.S. officials and Trump himself have suggested the withdrawal would be slower than initially believed. White House national security adviser John Bolton said two conditions would have to be met, including the protection of America's local Kurdish allies in northern Syria, and the total defeat of IS.

Last week, the U.S. military began pulling out equipment from the northeast into neighboring Iraq. No troops are known to have withdrawn yet.

Manbij is highly strategic: It is the main town on the westernmost edge of Syrian territory held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds, running along the border with Turkey. Mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian forces liberated Manbij from the rule of the Islamic State group in 2016 with help from the U.S.-led coalition. But Kurdish control of the town infuriated Turkey, which views the main U.S. Kurdish ally, the YPG militia, as "terrorists" linked to Kurdish insurgents on its own soil.

The town has been at the center of tensions in northern Syria, with the militaries of two NATO members, the U.S. and Turkey, on opposing sides.

The two sides began joint patrols around Manbij in November as part of an agreement for easing tensions between the two allies.

The crowded terrain has become more combustible as Turkey threatens to attack Kurdish-run towns further east. The presence of the Americans is a main obstacle preventing them from doing so.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 people were killed including nine civilians and others were wounded in Wednesday's blast. It added that at least five U.S.-backed Syrian fighters were also among the dead.

The U.S. military released a statement on Twitter that said: "U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time."

The Kurdish Hawar news agency, based in northern Syria, and the Observatory, which monitors the war through activists on the ground, reported U.S. troops were among the casualties.

Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed local sources, said a number of U.S. soldiers were injured in the blast and that the U.S. military evacuated soldiers by helicopter.

Attacks targeting members of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria have been rare.

In March last year, a roadside bomb killed two coalition personnel, an American and a Briton, and wounded five in Manbij.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 503322

Reported Deaths: 10057
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34400541
DeSoto32318411
Hinds32074631
Jackson24551386
Rankin22103391
Lee15657235
Madison14662281
Jones13894243
Forrest13506253
Lauderdale12037318
Lowndes11091192
Lamar10531138
Pearl River9557238
Lafayette8581140
Hancock7751130
Washington7458161
Oktibbeha7152133
Monroe6796178
Warren6752176
Pontotoc6736104
Neshoba6656206
Panola6572131
Marshall6494135
Bolivar6331150
Union607794
Pike5849154
Alcorn5691102
Lincoln5468135
George502979
Scott474198
Tippah472481
Prentiss471582
Leflore4676144
Itawamba4651105
Tate4632111
Adams4617120
Copiah450092
Simpson4458116
Yazoo445388
Wayne440772
Covington429894
Sunflower4246105
Marion4236108
Coahoma4178108
Leake409888
Newton383179
Grenada3731108
Tishomingo361592
Stone360664
Jasper336565
Attala335290
Winston315391
Clay309077
Chickasaw302367
Clarke295894
Calhoun279947
Holmes268788
Smith266550
Yalobusha237247
Tallahatchie228752
Greene220649
Walthall219364
Lawrence213640
Perry206456
Amite206056
Webster203446
Noxubee186940
Montgomery179757
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169639
Tunica160139
Benton149439
Kemper142141
Choctaw134627
Claiborne132838
Humphreys129738
Franklin120728
Quitman106828
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson95934
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 821255

Reported Deaths: 15424
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1149051930
Mobile726651340
Madison52400699
Shelby37685350
Baldwin37285552
Tuscaloosa35147613
Montgomery34130740
Lee23556246
Calhoun22255490
Morgan21037378
Etowah19844500
Marshall18390304
Houston17406412
St. Clair16091339
Cullman15493293
Limestone15402199
Elmore15292286
Lauderdale14366295
Talladega13870283
DeKalb12670261
Walker11255370
Blount10227176
Autauga10061148
Jackson9909185
Coffee9215191
Dale8912186
Colbert8907201
Tallapoosa7103198
Escambia6782134
Covington6724183
Chilton6658162
Russell637659
Franklin5992105
Chambers5615142
Marion5016127
Dallas5013202
Pike4799106
Clarke477284
Geneva4577127
Winston4538103
Lawrence4352117
Bibb425686
Barbour358376
Marengo338390
Monroe332064
Randolph330264
Butler328596
Pickens317384
Henry313166
Hale311988
Cherokee303260
Fayette294580
Washington251651
Cleburne247960
Clay245568
Crenshaw245475
Macon235563
Lamar225747
Conecuh186654
Coosa180940
Lowndes175764
Wilcox169139
Bullock151844
Perry139240
Sumter133338
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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