US suffers first combat death in Syria

US suffers first combat death in Syria
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An explosion Thursday gave the U.S. military its first combat death in Syria in the fight against ISIS.

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Pentagon officials said the Special Operations Force member, not yet identified to the public, was killed near Ayn Issa in northern Syria by an improvised explosive device.

“I am deeply saddened by the news on this Thanksgiving Day that one of our brave service members has been killed in Syria while protecting us from the evil of ISIL,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement. “It is a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe.”

At least 300 Special Operations members are on the ground in Syria as part of the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, a fact only acknowledged by the Obama administration a year ago. As Iraqi forces have pushed into ISIS-held Mosul in recent weeks, coalition forces have also been preparing for an offensive into Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in northern Syria.

“The entire counter-ISIL Coalition sends our condolences to this hero's family, friends and teammates," Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement. "On this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from ISIL's hateful and brutal ideology."

Also Thursday, the Turkish military said three of its soldiers were killed in a strike by Syrian government planes, the first reported Turkish casualties at the hands of the Assad regime. If confirmed, the deaths are sure to further inflame tensions between the two neighbors.