Four U.S. troops reported among 16 dead in north Syria attack

BEIRUT, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A bomb attack claimed by Islamic State killed U.S. troops in northern Syria on Wednesday, weeks after President Donald Trump said group was defeated there and he would pull out all American forces.

A U.S. official who declined to be named said four U.S. troops had been killed and three wounded in the blast, which an Islamic State-affiliated site said was the work of a suicide bomber. Others said only two had been killed.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamist militant group said that "U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol," and that it was still gathering details.

The attack, which took place in the town of Manbij, controlled by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, appears to be the deadliest on U.S. forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said that only two U.S. troops had previously been killed in action in Syria. There were two additional non-combat fatalities.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump made a surprise announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria after concluding that Islamic State had been defeated there.

The announcement helped trigger the resignation of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

Related: Destruction in Syria after U.S.-led airstrikes 

27 PHOTOS
Destruction in Syria after US-led airstrikes
See Gallery
Destruction in Syria after US-led airstrikes
A Syrian soldier sprays water on the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier sprays water on the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS - APRIL 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile at Syria as part of an allied strike April 14, 2018. Monterey is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.(Photo by Matthew Daniels/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
A journalist films the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. FIFTH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS - APRIL 14: In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile at Syria as part of an allied strike April 14, 2018. Monterey is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. President Donald Trump has ordered a joint force strike on Syria with Britain and France over the recent suspected chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.(Photo by Matthew Daniels/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian soldiers inspect the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Syrian soldiers inspect the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian soldiers extinguish a fire in the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier takes a picture of the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Journalists take pictures of the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian soldier inspects the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian government forces wait for vehicles carrying Jaish al-Islam fighters and their family members evacuated from the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma, to arrive at the Wafideen crossing on April 14, 2018. Rebels in Syria's Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons and their leader left the enclave, a monitor said, signalling the end of one of the bloodiest assaults of Syria's seven-year war. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 14, 2018 shows the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry. The United States, Britain and France launched strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime early on April 14 in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack after mulling military action for nearly a week. Syrian state news agency SANA reported several missiles hit a research centre in Barzeh, north of Damascus, 'destroying a building that included scientific labs and a training centre'. / AFP PHOTO / LOUAI BESHARA (Photo credit should read LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images)
The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
A Syrian military officer records a video inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
Syrian firefighters are seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
A Syrian firefighter is seen inside the destroyed Scientific Research Centre in Damascus, Syria April 14, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
The destroyed Scientific Research Centre is seen in Damascus, Syria April 14,2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

RESTAURANT ATTACKED

A witness in the city said the attack had targeted a restaurant where U.S. personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said 16 people had been killed in all, including two Americans. A militia source in north Syria also said two U.S. troops had been killed.

Islamic State later put out a statement saying a Syrian fighter had detonated his explosive vest on a foreign patrol in Manbij.

Two witnesses described the blast to Reuters.

"An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces from the Manbij Military Council with them," one said.

The Manbij Military Council militia has controlled the town since U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces took it from Islamic State in 2016. It is located near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.

One of the witnesses said there was a "heavy" presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.

Photographs on a local Kurdish news site, which Reuters could not verify, showed two mutilated bodies, several other bodies lying on the ground with people gathered around them, damage to a building and vehicles, and blood smears on a wall.

It was unclear whether the attack might influence Trump’s decision to give more time for the U.S. withdrawal, a conflict he has tired of and described as “sand and death”. (Reporting By Angus McDowall and Ellen Francis in Beirut, Sarah Dadouch in Istanbul and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.