Someone managed to infiltrate a U.S. base in eastern Syria and plant a bomb that wounded four U.S. service members last week, the U.S. military first revealed late Thursday.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) revealed an attack on its Green Village base it previously attributed to outside indirect fire weapons had actually been carried out by one or more unidentified individuals who had placed explosives inside the base.
“On April 7, Combined Joint Task Force – Inherent Resolve officials announced an indirect fire attack on Green Village in eastern Syria,” said the task force, which oversees U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria. OIR’s mission is to counter the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
“Upon further investigation, OIR officials assess the explosions in Green Village were not the result of indirect fire but rather the deliberate placement of explosive charges by an unidentified individual(s) at an ammunition holding area and shower facility,” the OIR statement added.
Reports initially said two U.S. service members were injured in the April 7 attack. Later that day, OIR confirmed four U.S. service members were being evaluated for minor injuries as well as possible traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
It was not immediately clear who was behind the Thursday attack on Green Village. The United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights previously assessed five rockets were fired during last week’s attack and they came from an area where Iran-backed militia fighters are based. OIR’s new assessment that the April 7 explosion was the result of a deliberately-placed explosive device adds a new level of complexity to understanding the attack.
Middle East Institute fellow Charles Lister noted the serious implications if the Green Village attack was the result of infiltration.
“Not good. @CJTFOIR admit the April 7 attack on the U.S. military base in Deir ez Zour (known as “Green Village”) was not a rocket attack — the base was infiltrated, IEDs laid & later detonated in an ammo storage area,” Lister tweeted. “That’d be a first for #Iran-backed militias or #ISIS.”
OIR said the April 7 attack remains under investigation.
On Friday, OIR told Stars & Stripes that the four U.S. service members injured in the attack had been cleared to return to duty at the Green Village base on Wednesday.
OIR did not provide any additional information about how it may increase the security around the Green Village base after the probable insider attack.
On Friday, Syria-based journalist Hussam Hammoud tweeted a photo of ongoing efforts to construct a wall around the base. “After bringing more reinforcements to the US military base in Conoco gas field in #DeirEzzour’s countryside, #US forces has started buliding [sic] a wall to secure the base from any possible attacks by #IS.”
As of January, there were an estimated 700 U.S. troops still in Syria.