Four U.S. troops reported among 16 dead in north Syria attack

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

A bomb attack claimed by Islamic State has killed U.S. troops in northern Syria, weeks after President Donald Trump said the group was defeated there and he would withdraw all American forces.

Trump gave no timetable, but said that, once the troop withdrawal is complete, the us could attack from a base outside Syria if ISIS attempted to regroup.

The Pentagon said two US servicemembers, a Department of Defense civilian employee and one contractor working for the military were killed and three servicemembers were injured in the blast in the northern Syria town of Manbij.

The US-backed Manbij Military Council, which is linked the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), has controlled Manbij since they seized the city from ISIS in 2016.

The troops flew the American flag on their vehicles - a practice not common in other parts of Syria - because, as a Pentagon spokesman said at the time, they would be "a visible sign of deterrence and reassurance". Officials with the Syrian Democratic Forces said that the wounded were rushed to medical facilities in neighboring Iraq.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 19 people were wounded or killed.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the blast, saying one of its members carried out a suicide attack and detonated his vest with explosives.

The White House is showing no inclination to review its analysis of the group's demise.

On Tuesday, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would set up a "security zone" in northern Syria following a suggestion by Trump.

The explosion comes shortly after President Trump announced in December that the US would withdraw forces from Syria.

A witness in the city said the attack had targeted a restaurant where US personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.

Nearly eight years into Syria's civil war, Turkey has repeatedly threatened to attack Syrian Kurdish fighters it views as "terrorists" on its southern flank.

Mr Pence reiterated that the USA would continue with its plan to withdraw troops from the country.

A witness in the city said the attack had targeted a restaurant where USA personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.

Military commanders warned President Donald Trump on December 26 during his surprise visit to Iraq that - despite his claims to the contrary - ISIS was not entirely defeated in Syria. "I hope the president will look long and hard at what we're doing in Syria". "I know people are frustrated, but we are never going to be safe here unless we are willing to help people over there who will stand up against this radical ideology".

It is still unclear how President Trump will respond. Last week, the USA began withdrawing some military ground equipment from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation. A United Nations report published that same month made a similar assessment. The attack will inevitably raise questions about how strong the group remains, and could create public pressure for European countries including France to withdraw if their forces died in the attack.

"While it may not hold territory, it certainly has battle-hardened fighters and facilitators who have blended back into the local population", he said.

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