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A drone attack on a military base housing US troops in Syria has killed at least six allied Syrian fighters, the first major attack since Washington launched retaliatory strikes against Iran-aligned militias accused of targeting its forces in the region.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a shadowy umbrella group of Iran-backed militias that the US has blamed for the killing of three of its troops last month, claimed responsibility for the latest assault in the early hours of Monday, which struck a training facility at the al-Omar oilfield within a US military compound.
The group, which released a video on Monday taking responsibility for the strike, has claimed more than 160 attacks against US troops since mid-October and has repeatedly demanded the removal of US forces from the region.
The Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, key allies in the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of Islamist militant group Isis, blamed “Iran-backed militias” for the latest attack.
The SDF said the drone used in Monday’s strike was launched from Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, an area controlled by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran. The SDF “assert our right to respond appropriately”, it said in a statement.
No US casualties were reported, but the attack will heighten fears that Washington is being drawn deeper into a widening regional conflict sparked by the Israel-Hamas war. Last week, a leading group within the IRI said it would stop attacks on US forces.
The IRI is part of Iran’s so-called Axis of Resistance, which includes Iranian-backed militants such as Hizbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Those groups have launched a number of attacks against Israel since the start of the Jewish state’s war in Gaza, which was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 assault on southern Israel.
Three US soldiers were killed and 41 injured in a drone attack on a US base on the Jordan-Syria border late last month. Washington attributed the attack to the IRI and at the weekend launched a wave of retaliatory strikes on 85 targets at seven facilities linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its network of aligned militant groups in Iraq and Syria. It also struck Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The Biden administration has warned it will continue to target Iranian-aligned militants, while senior officials in Washington and Tehran have repeatedly said they want to avoid a full-blown regional conflict.