(Washington Post) – A U.S. service member was killed by an improvised explosive device in northern Syria on Thursday, the Pentagon announced in a statement.
The service member was killed near Ain Issa, a town roughly 35 miles northwest of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. The death marks the first time a U.S. service member has been killed in the country since a contingent of Special Operations forces were deployed there in October 2015 to go after the extremist group.
“The entire counter-[Islamic State] coalition sends its condolences to this hero’s, family, friends and teammates,” said Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend, the commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “On this Thanksgiving please be thankful there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from [the Islamic State’s] hateful and brutal ideology.”
The Pentagon usually waits 24 hours before releasing the name of a casualty to ensure proper notification to the service member’s family.
“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,” Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter said in a statement and using another acronym for the Islamic State. “Please keep this service member’s family, friends and teammates in your thoughts and prayers, and this Thanksgiving I hope you will join me in expressing thanks to all of our dedicated troops who selflessly protect us everyday.”
There are roughly 500 U.S. troops in Syria, mostly operating in support role to a coalition of Arab and Kurdish fighters fighting the Islamic State known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Earlier this month, Carter announced that the SDF had begun the initial operations to isolate and eventually retake Raqqa.