An apparent suicide bombing hit the Kurdish-controlled northern Syrian city of Manbij during a “routine” US-led coalition patrol, killing several US troops and civilians. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The blast happened near a restaurant and market. Preliminary reports say at least six people were killed and 19 others injured by the explosion. Various sources on the ground claim that between two and five US soldiers are among the casualties, but this has yet to be confirmed.
Footage from Manbij obtained by RT’s video agency Ruptly shows emergency vehicles and several US troops, presumably responding to the blast.
Ruptly’s contributor on the ground said the US military ramped up security inside the city following the attack and put the city hospital, where victims have been transported, on lockdown.
Photos and videos taken at the scene show a damaged building with broken windows and what appear to be blood stains on a column and several damaged cars.
Update: #USA Blackhawks are landing next to targeted site in #Manbij
US Service men were injured. An US patrol was near the targeted restaurant – according to locals some were enjoying a meal inside the restaurant pic.twitter.com/AIM6lgcuwa
— Rojava News (@Rojava_News_) January 16, 2019
#Breaking #Syria #EasternEuphrates
Explosion reported near a market in #Manbij. Unclear if #US soldiers (who were there) are involved.@AleppoAMC says that 5 US servicemen have been killed but I tend to be skeptical. pic.twitter.com/580NPH124y
— MrRevinsky (@Kyruer) January 16, 2019
The US-led coalition has confirmed in a tweet that “US service members were killed during an explosion” during what it called a “routine patrol in Syria.” It did not immediately offer details on the number of casualties.
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.
— OIR Spokesperson (@OIRSpox) January 16, 2019
Four US soldiers were killed and three were injured, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed American official.
Al Jazeera sources earlier said the death toll includes two US soldiers, one Kurdish fighter, and six civilians. Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak said five Americans were killed by the explosion. Another unconfirmed report said the target was a restaurant where US, French and Kurdish troops were meeting to discuss security arrangements for the city.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) mouthpiece Al-Amaq said the terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A graphic video surveillance footage of the blast has been shared on social media, showing a group of people near the restaurant and passersby consumed by a huge fiery blast. It appears to confirm the attack was a work of a suicide bomber.
WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC FOOTAGE
UNVERIFIED video that shows the moment of the Manbij explosion. Seems like a suicide bombing pic.twitter.com/2iyrPnkWtR
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) January 16, 2019
Meanwhile, a helicopter apparently sent to the area by the US military was filmed by bystanders.
— EHA News (@eha_news) January 16, 2019
— Riam Dalati (@Dalatrm) January 16, 2019
Manbij is a strategically located city, which is at the center of a tense confrontation between the Kurds and Turkey, which considers the Kurdish fighters to be terrorists. Ankara has threatened to launch a military operation to kick them out of the city.
The US, which supported Kurdish militias with arms and training while they were focusing on fighting jihadist forces, is now in the process of withdrawing its troops from Kurdish-controlled parts of Syria. The promised pullout would take time, however, and in practice US soldiers continue missions on the ground.