Drone shot down near US base in Syria
A drone was intercepted near a military base in southern Syria on Tuesday, U.S. Central Command said.
Captain Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in an emailed statement that two unmanned aerials systems (UAS) were tracked entering a deconfliction zone on Tuesday evening.
As one drone continued deeper into the deconfliction zone, it was “assessed as demonstrating hostile intent and was shot down,” he said.
“The second UAS was not engaged and likely left the area. At-Tanf Garrison reports no casualties and no damage to facilities,” Urban said.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby later told reporters that the United Kingdom shot down the drone.
The UK’s defense ministry said in a separate statement that a Royal Air Force typhoon shot down a drone over the base with an advanced sort range air-to-air missile.
It was unclear who was behind the incident. NBC News, which first reported the incident on Wednesday, reported that Iran or Iranian-backed militia groups were suspected to be behind it.
Kirby declined to say how the military determines whether a drone is on an attack pattern before it leaves an incursion area, but said that force protection is a priority.
“We know that this is an increasingly used and increasingly lethal, potentially lethal, threat that these Iran-backed militia groups are using, the use of drones,” he said. “We certainly do the best we can to track into and to deal with this threat in real time, as you saw just yesterday, but I won’t go in any more detail than that.”
The deconfliction zone is located in a strategic area near Syria’s Tanf border, which crosses with Iraq and Jordan. U.S. and international troops are there to train Syrian forces as part of a global effort to defeat ISIS.
In mid-October, the base was hit with an attack that was believed to have included five drones laden with explosive charges. No injuries or deaths, however, were reported.
U.S. officials reportedly believed that Iran didn’t launch that attack but had provided resources and encouraged it.
—Ellen Mitchell contributed
Updated 12:41 p.m.
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