WASHINGTON (AP) — A US contractor was killed and five US service members and one other US contractor were wounded when a drone struck a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon said.
In a statement released late Thursday, the Defense Department said the intelligence community had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle was of Iranian origin.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said US Central Command forces retaliated with “precision airstrikes” against facilities in eastern Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” Austin said.
Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir Ezzor, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields.
Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes.
Aerial bombardment on Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria, and a fire broke out in the rural development building in Harabish neighborhood in Deir Ezzor city. pic.twitter.com/b2abhalSx5
— Spriter (@spriter99880) March 24, 2023
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency did not immediately acknowledge any strikes. Syria’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Qatar’s state-run news agency reported a call between its foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the US recently amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.
There was no immediate reaction from Iran over the strikes, which come during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Austin said he authorized the retaliatory strikes at the direction of President Joe Biden.
“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”
The Pentagon said two of the wounded service members were treated on site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq.