US shoots down armed drone in Syria
The United States on Thursday shot down a pro-Syrian government drone that fired on U.S.-led forces in southern Syria, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, told Pentagon reporters that a drone fired a munition that “hit dirt” in a deconfliction zone, did not detonate and caused no casualties or injuries.
The drone fired on coalition troops near the al Tanf military garrison, where Syrian rebels are being trained to fight ISIS. The troops included Syria rebel fighters that were on a routine patrol with the coalition outside of the protected zone.
This is the third time the U.S., within the deconfliction zone, has fired on fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the drone attack is the first known time that the pro-regime forces have fired at coalition forces in the area.
Dillon said the armed drone, which resembled a U.S. MQ-1 Predator, was considered a direct threat and a manned U.S. aircraft shot it down.
“This clearly showed a threat even if it were a warning shot; it was something that showed a hostile intent, a hostile action and posed a threat to our forces because this drone still had munitions that were still on it,” Dillon said.
He declined to say who owned or operated the drone.
Hours before the drone attack, the U.S. bombed two pro-Syria government pick-up trucks armed with weapons that moved inside the deconfliction zone that consists of a 55-mile radius around al Tanf.
Dillon stressed that the coalition remains focused on fighting ISIS.
“The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime or pro-regime forces, however we remain ready to defend ourselves against any threat,” Dillon said.
“Unfortunately, there have been incidents that have taken our focus away from fighting ISIS,” he added.
The U.S.-backed coalition on Tuesday destroyed two artillery pieces and an anti-aircraft weapon and damaged a tank belonging to pro-regime fighters after they moved into the deconfliction zone that holds al Tanf “despite previous warnings.”
And the United States in May bombed pro-government militias in the same area after they advanced into the deconfliction zone.
Dillon said that the coalition has dropped leaflets telling the fighters to leave the area, and has also used an established phone line with the Russians to warn the fighters to leave the protected zone.
He added however that the coalition “still not seen any physical signs of them departing this area.”