U.S. contractor killed, six others injured in suspected Iranian drone attack in Syria

A U.S. contractor was killed and six people — including five service members — were injured after an unmanned drone struck a maintenance facility in northeastern Syria, the Department of Defense said in a Thursday evening statement.

In response, President Biden authorized precision airstrikes “in eastern Syria against facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC),” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in the statement.

The drone strike happened on a Coalition base near Hasakah at approximately 1:38 p.m. local time, the statement said.

“The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC,” Austin said. “As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing. No group will strike our troops with impunity.”

Two of the injured service members were treated at the site of the initial attack, while three others and the injured contractor were evacuated to Iraq for treatment, the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if the U.S. strikes resulted in any fatalities or injuries. The Pentagon said it took “deliberate action intended to limit the risk of escalation and minimize casualties.”

Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields.

Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency did not immediately acknowledge any strikes. Syria’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Qatar’s state-run news agency reported a call between its foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. recently amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran over the strikes, which come during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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