U.S. Troops among 16 Dead in IS-Claimed Syria Bombing

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A suicide attack killed U.S. servicemen in northern Syria Wednesday, causing the United States to suffer its worst combat losses in the war-torn country since 2014 as it prepares to withdraw.

The bombing claimed by the Islamic State group comes after U.S. President Donald Trump's shock announcement last month that he was ordering a full troop withdrawal from Syria because the jihadists had been "largely defeated."

The U.S.-led coalition fighting IS said "U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria" Wednesday, without giving a death toll.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two Americans soldiers, nine Syrian civilians, and five U.S.-backed fighters were killed in the attack on a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij near the Turkish border.

Rubble littered the outside of the eatery in the city centre and its facade was blackened by the blast, footage from a Kurdish news agency showed.

According to Pentagon statistics, Wednesday's blast was the deadliest attack for U.S. coalition forces in Syria since they deployed in 2014.

The U.S. Department of Defense only reported two previous U.S. nationals being killed in combat in Syria, in two separate incidents.

The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria, said it was the first such suicide attack in the city in 10 months.

- 'Security zone' -

Speaking at a gathering in Washington of U.S. ambassadors, Vice President Mike Pence did not comment on the attack and just said that the United States would ensure the defeat of IS, also known as ISIS.

"We'll stay in the region and we'll stay in the fight to ensure that ISIS does not rear its ugly head again," he said.

The bombing comes as Syrian Kurds present in areas around Manbij reject any Turkish presence in a planned "safe zone" to include Kurdish-held areas along the frontier.

Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Washington's Syrian Kurdish allies who Ankara views as "terrorists" on its southern flank.

Washington, which has relied heavily on the Kurds in its campaign against IS in Syria, has sought guarantees for their safety after Trump's pullout announcement.

On Tuesday, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would set up a "security zone" in northern Syria following a suggestion by Trump.

But senior Kurdish political leader Aldar Khalil said any Turkish deployment in Kurdish-held areas was "unacceptable."

He said the Kurds would accept the deployment of U.N. forces along a separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops.

But "other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region," Khalil told AFP.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have been a key U.S. ally in the fight against IS.

They have taken heavy losses in a campaign now nearing its conclusion, with the jihadists confined to an ever-shrinking enclave of just 15 square kilometers (under six square miles).

But the jihadists have continued to claim attacks nationwide and abroad.

Ankara has welcomed Washington's planned withdrawal of some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, but the future of Kurdish fighters has poisoned relations between the NATO allies.

On Monday, Erdogan and Trump had a telephone conversation to ease tensions after the U.S. leader threatened to "devastate" Turkey's economy if Ankara attacked Kurdish forces in Syria, and called for a "safe zone."

- No 'outside interference' -

Erdogan said he and Trump had a "quite positive" conversation in which they spoke of "a 20-mile (30 kilometer) security zone along the Syrian border... set up by us."

The YPG-led forces fighting IS in a statement said they would provide "necessary support to set up the safe zone" -- if it came with international guarantees to "prevent any outside interference", in an apparent reference to Turkey.

The Turkish army has launched two major operations in Syria in recent years, with the latest seeing Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies seizing the northwestern enclave of Afrin from the Kurds last year.

Critics have accused Turkish troops and their proxies of military occupation of Syrian sovereign territory.

But while Ankara has spoken of a YPG-free "security zone" under its control, analyst Mutlu Civiroglu said it was not immediately clear what the U.S. president meant by a "safe zone," or who he thought would patrol it.

Analysts were "waiting for a clarification from Washington to see what the president really meant," he told AFP.

The U.S. planned withdrawal has sent the Kurds scrambling to seek a new ally in Damascus, which has long rejected Kurdish self-rule.

With military backing from Russia since 2015, Syria's regime has advanced against the jihadists and rebels, and now controls almost two-thirds of the country.

A northwestern enclave held by jihadists and pockets held by Turkish troops and their allies remain beyond its reach, along with the much larger Kurdish region.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Syrian government must take control of the north.

Comments 14
Thumb justin 16 January 2019, 16:37

But didn't the shia say the USA created ISIS? I guess it is 'blowback' as gigahabib always said.

Thumb s.o.s 16 January 2019, 16:40

Only the West and allies are attacking Daesh, but the Shia propagandists deny this vehemently.

Thumb galaxy 16 January 2019, 17:30

lol @ 'only the Syrian Army and Allies knows how'

Do you know of Lavrov ya heretic? He is the Russian Foreign Minister who once said: " Had the Russians not intervened Damascus would have fallen into rebel hands in 2 weeks". What he said is testimony to the credibility of your claim:)

Thumb thepatriot 16 January 2019, 19:22

And please explain to me Mastica what is the difference between a salafi and you? You are both bearded extremists, religious radicals with a culture of death. The rest is irrelevant details...

Thumb s.o.s 16 January 2019, 19:38

Yes the patriot, the main difference between Daesh and Hizbala is the flag. Both of their leaders wear black turbans and outfits with mystical ideologies. both are overweight hence sick, both are living in basements and caves.... and much more in common.

Thumb thepatriot 16 January 2019, 19:23

Not everyone has your culture of Death Mastica. Well you salafi brothers also do...

Missing bigjohn 16 January 2019, 22:48

It is called unintended consequences like when they created Usama Bin laden The hero of the American supported Arab Afghans in the 1980's.

Thumb whyaskwhy 17 January 2019, 20:54

Big John how much is the big gulpie selling this morning at the convenience station?

Thumb chrisrushlau 17 January 2019, 18:28

Gigahabib knows what's going on.

Thumb galaxy 16 January 2019, 16:55

Doesn't Daesh know where Iranian embassies, hotels, restaurants, etc are? Why do they always target western or gulf targets?

Thumb galaxy 16 January 2019, 17:23

They were not ISIS ya irani. ISIS are the ones you and your terrorist militia put on Al Mahdi schools air conditioned buses and served them home made meals.

Missing Ali.Abbas.Badran 16 January 2019, 19:18

Brother Mystic the same false flags.
-Michel Samaha was tasked by Bashar and Ali Mamlouk to bomb Lebanese targets and blame AlQaeda.
-The Free Sunni Brigade in Baalbek claimed two suicide bombings that killed Lebanese army soldiers. It turns out the brigade was affiliated with Hezballah.
- Pro Assad MP Talal Arslan: The Same Attackers behind the two mosques in Tripoli and Dahieh explosions. The perpetrators are the same in all bombing and they aim at causing a sectarian strife in the country through threatening the security situation. Turns out the Tripoli attacks were committed by Rifaat Eid on orders Bashar and Ali Mamlouk.

Thumb s.o.s 16 January 2019, 19:41

Ali Abbas Badran, isn’t Rifaat ‘roro’ Eid an Alawi? Isn’t Alawism a heretical offshoot of Shiism founded by the Yemenite Jew converted to Islam Abdullah Bin Saba?

Thumb whyaskwhy 16 January 2019, 17:23

Simply because the world does not care if the Iranian embassy was attacked. In fact the world would probably call it for what it would be in reality the bomb blew up in the bombers face. No one likes the bombs being placed under cars or homes that end up many innocent people. Kizballah is not immune to the use of this technology they have employed it on more Lebanese than Israelis.