Trump offers condolences to families of American service members killed in Syria blast

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Photo credit Photo by Capt. Jason Welch 3d Cavalry Regiment Public Affairs

President Trump paid tribute Thursday to four Americans - including two U.S. soldiers - who were killed in Syria.

Speaking at the Pentagon, the president expressed “my deepest condolences to the families of the brave American heroes who laid down their lives” in Syria.

“We will never forget their noble and immortal sacrifice,” Mr. Trump said.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the explosion that killed four Americans, including two U.S. soldiers, and at least 10 other people in the Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday. The American deaths included a defense contractor and a Department of Defense civilian; three other U.S. service members were injured.

The attack came while US military personnel were conducting a “routine patrol” in an unconfirmed part of Syria. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the US-led counter-ISIS campaign in Syria, tweeted Wednesday. 

Reports began trickling in that an explosion rocked near a US patrol in the northern Syrian city of Manbij. 

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 16 people were killed including nine civilians. At least five US-backed Syrian fighters are among the dead. 

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Local footage shows a restaurant that was struck and a street covered in debris, and one clip shows a helicopter flying over the area. 

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the  suicide attack.

Later Wednesday morning, while speaking at the State Department, Vice President Mike Pence said the Islami State's "caliphate has crumbled" and that the terrorist network "has been defeated." 

He also defended President Trump's decision to withdraw some 2,000 American troops from Syria. The withdraw will be "orderly and effective," he said, but added the US will stay in the region ensuring the Islamic State does not reemerge. 

Attacks in Manbij are rare, but an improvised explosive device last March killed one American and a British soldier. Here's a look at previous deaths among US service members in Syria:

 Nov. 24, 2016: Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Cooper Dayton, 42, of Woodbridge, Virginia, was killed in an improvised explosive device blast near the northern Syrian town of Ayn Issa, becoming the first American casualty in combat in the fight against IS in Syria.

March 28, 2017: Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, 25, of Umatilla, Oregon, died in northern Syria in a non-combat-related incident while deployed in support of combat operations.

May 26, 2017: Army Spc. Etienne J. Murphy, 22, of Loganville, Georgia, died in Al-Hasakah, Syria, of injuries sustained during an incident related to a vehicle rollover, according to a statement from the Department of Defense.

March 30, 2018: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar was killed by a roadside bomb attack in Syria along with a British service member.

The Associated Press also contributed to this article.
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