The U.S. military suffered its first death in Syria on Thursday when a soldier was killed by an explosive device planted by retreating Islamic State militants.
The improvised explosive device (IED) killed an unnamed soldier who was taking part in Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. military operation combating IS in Syria and northern Iraq. The incident occurred near the town of Ayn Issa, half way between Raqqa and the Turkish border, where several groups have been active recently, including Syrian Kurds, IS and most recently local tribal fighters who oppose the Kurds.
Quoting a senior U.S. defense official, NBC reported that at least one other U.S. soldier was injured in the explosion.
The U.S. Army has about 300 members of its Special Operations Forces in Syria at any one time – offering support and training. They also help to recruit Kurdish and Arab fighters seeking to eradicate IS from Syria.
“I am deeply saddened by the news on this Thanksgiving Day that one of our brave service members has been killed in Syria while protecting us from the evil of ISIL,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement. “It is a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe.”
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in charge of Operation Inherent Resolve, added his condolences: “The entire counter-IS coalition sends our condolences to this hero’s family, friends and teammates. On this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from IS’s hateful and brutal ideology.”
The U.S. is also providing air support to militia fighters seeking to oust IS from Raqqa, as the White House continues to work on a solution to bring peace to the war-torn country.
In an interview with a German newspaper on Friday, the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were “very motivated to end the greatest humanitarian tragedy of this century” but added that Obama would need to work until his very last day in office to try and find a solution.
“I would never underestimate an outgoing U.S. president as a lame duck,” de Mistura said in an interview in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper according to Reuters.