Drone strike kills U.S. contractor in Syria; U.S. retaliates

The Pentagon says a U.S. contractor was killed and five U.S. service members and one other U.S. contractor were wounded when a drone struck a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria on March 23

Updated - March 24, 2023 09:26 am IST

Published - March 24, 2023 08:56 am IST - WASHINGTON

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. | Photo Credit: Reuters

A U.S. contractor was killed and five U.S. service members and one other U.S. contractor were wounded when a drone struck a facility on a coalition base in northeast Syria on March 23, the Pentagon said.

In a statement released late on March 23, the Defence Department said the intelligence community had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle was of Iranian origin.

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. 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," Mr. Austin said.

Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor, 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.

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 U.S. National Security Adviser. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. 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.

Mr. Austin said he authorised 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,” Mr. 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.

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