US Strikes Syria After Drone Kills Contractor

Pentagon says suspected Iran drone injured 5 soldiers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 24, 2023 5:31 AM CDT
US Strikes Syria After Drone Kills Contractor
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, at the Pentagon earlier this month.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

A strike Thursday by a suspected Iranian-made drone killed a US contractor and wounded five American troops and another contractor in northeast Syria, the Pentagon said. American forces said they retaliated soon after with "precision airstrikes" in Syria targeting facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, with one activist group reporting the US strikes killed at least eight fighters on the ground, the AP reports. The attack and the US response threaten to upend recent efforts to deescalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward détente in recent days following years of turmoil.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the American intelligence community had determined the drone was of Iranian origin, but offered no other immediate evidence to support the claim. "The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria" by groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, Austin said. He said he authorized the retaliatory strikes at the direction of President Biden.The Pentagon said two of the wounded service members were treated on-site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq.

Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir el-Zour, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields. Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes. Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the strikes. US Army Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, the head of Central Command, warned that American forces could carry out additional strikes if needed. "We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks," Kurilla said in a statement. (More Syria stories.)

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