US soldiers killed in Islamic State bombing in Syria
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US soldiers killed in Islamic State bombing in Syria

US military confirms American service members among casualties in suicide bombing targeting coalition forces in northern city of Manbij

An image grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV on January 16, 2019, shows US troops gathered at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. (AFP)
An image grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV on January 16, 2019, shows US troops gathered at the scene of a suicide attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. (AFP)

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that targeted the US-led coalition in the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday that killed at least two US service members.

“Suicide attacker Abu Yassin al-Shami wearing an explosive vest set off towards a patrol including members of the Crusader coalition and the PKK apostates near the Palace of Princes restaurant in the city of Manbij,” a statement posted on the group’s usual social media channels said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, at least 15 people were killed in the rare attack in Manbij.

The US-led coalition confirmed that American soldiers were killed in an explosion while conducting routine patrol in Syria, but did not release further details.

“We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” a coalition spokesman said in a statement posted on social media.

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

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

US President Donald Trump declared the Islamic State group defeated last month, announcing the withdrawal of US troops from the country.

The bombing came as Kurds who control a large swath of northern Syria rejected a Turkish plan to set up a “security zone” on the Syrian side of the border.

Almost eight years into Syria’s civil war, Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Syrian Kurdish fighters it 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 suddenly announced the troop pullout.

The name provided by IS suggested the bomber was Syrian and the term “PKK apostates” is used by the jihadists to refer to Kurdish forces from the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

This frame grab from video provided by Hawar News shows a damaged restaurant where an explosion occurred, in Manbij, Syria, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (ANHA via AP)

The YPG, a Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a decades-old insurgency against the Turkish state, is a key component of a local force that often carries out joint patrols with the coalition.

IS no longer holds fixed positions in the Manbij area and is currently defending its very last pocket of land against US-backed Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria.

The jihadist group retains the ability however to carry out deadly suicide attacks in many parts of the country.

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

The planned buffer would embrace a large swathe of the autonomous region the Kurds have established in northern and northeastern Syria.

Senior Kurdish political leader Aldar Khalil said any Turkish deployment in Kurdish-held areas was “unacceptable.”

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