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ISIS kills 2 US service members, 2 other Americans in Syria suicide blast

U.S. Army 3rd Cavalry Regiment troopers observe a Javelin anti-tank missile live fire while deployed to Iraq, Oct. 4, 2018. The 3rd Cavalry Regiment is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and coalition partners to defeat ISIS in areas of Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Jamie Douglas)
January 16, 2019

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

A deadly terrorist blast rocked Manbij in northern Syria on Wednesday, killing an two U.S. service members, an American Defense Department civilian and an American Defense Department contractor.

U.S. Central Command tweeted, “Two U.S. servicemembers, one Department of Defense (DoD) civilian and one contractor supporting DoD were killed and three servicemembers were injured while conducting a local engagement in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.”

Operation Inherent Resolved tweeted, “U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”

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The American deaths had not been initially verified by any news agencies or confirmed by defense officials, although some outlets – included Reuters – initially reported that up to four U.S. troops were killed and three wounded. The Manbij Military Council and Turkish state-run media also reported American casualties, according to Al Jazeera.

Operation Inherent Resolve had also tweeted Wednesday, “CJTF-OIR is aware of open source reports regarding an explosion in Syria. Coalition forces conducted a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time.”

Operation Inherent Resolve is the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) leading the fight against ISIS in Iraq.

ISIS has reportedly taken credit for the explosion, which is said to have taken place near a U.S.-led Coalition patrol.

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Amaq, a website affiliated with ISIS, said a suicide attacker wore a vest and targeted a patrol, Reuters reported.

President Donald Trump had tweeted late last year that the United States has “defeated ISIS,” and that the U.S. would be withdrawing all troops from Syria. There have more recently been reports that the withdrawal has begun, but it is initially equipment being withdrawn from the country, and not necessarily troops just yet.

There had been reports prior to Trump’s tweets that the U.S. military was preparing for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of more than 2,000 American service members in northeastern Syria, which would abruptly end the ground mission against ISIS there. It has since been reported that the troop withdrawal might not be as rapid as previously stated, but no details are being made available at this time.

The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which said that U.S. officials have begun informing their partners in Syria of plans to immediately withdraw U.S. troops.

A defense official had confirmed to CNN that plans were underway for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops. The official told CNN that the decision was rendered by President Trump.

There are approximately 2,000 U.S. service members in Syria who mainly help train local soldiers, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to fight against ISIS.

U.S. troops have been in Syria fighting ISIS for more than four years.

While Trump has said in the past that he would like to withdraw all troops from Syria, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had said this fall that troops would remain in Syria to complete their mission of defeating ISIS so the terrorist group cannot mount a comeback.

In April 2018, Mattis had said, “We do not want to simply pull out before the diplomats have won the peace. You win the fight — and then you win the peace,” Reuters had reported.

Mattis resigned as defense secretary late last year, citing differences of opinion with Trump. It is believed that their differing viewpoints on U.S. troops in Syria to fight ISIS was one of the final straws.

There are more than 5,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, which neighbors Syria to the east.