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Kamikaze drones strike US base

Several explosives-laden drones have targeted an American military base in southern Syria, with one successfully hitting the compound, according to US Central Command. Washington keeps just shy of 1,000 soldiers in the Middle Eastern nation, despite repeated demands from Damascus to withdraw.

CENTCOM said the attack involved three suicide drones and occurred on Friday morning at the US garrison in Al-Tanf, Syria, where American forces have long been stationed alongside militia fighters who previously sought to overthrow the Syrian government.

“Two of the drones were shot down by Coalition Forces while one struck the compound, injuring two members of the Syrian Free Army partner force who received medical treatment. No US forces were injured,” the military said, adding that such strikes are “unacceptable” as they “place our troops and our partners at risk and jeopardize the fight against ISIS.”

Situated near the three-way border junction with Iraq and Syria, the Al-Tanf outpost was established by US troops in 2016. They soon embedded with a rebel faction then known as Maghaweir al-Thowra (Commandos of the Revolution), which has since rebranded as the Syrian Free Army (distinct from the former Free Syrian Army).

While Washington maintains that the “vetted opposition” group is meant to combat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists and has abandoned its aims to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, it has faced controversy in recent months amid allegations of corruption and drug trafficking by its members. In September, the US-led coalition was forced to sack the group’s commander, with the military saying the move “occurred to ensure the long-term success” of the militia.

The Al-Tanf garrison has come under similar drone attacks on several occasions over the years, with sporadic strikes by unidentified actors. Last summer, Russian forces – who continue to support the government in Damascus – conducted several airstrikes in the area against a group of “US-trained and equipped” militants who purportedly “had committed terrorist acts and killed civilians.”

In addition to 200 US soldiers based at Al-Tanf, around 700 operate elsewhere in Syria, most in the country’s oil-rich northeast, where they have allied with Kurdish fighters. The Syrian government has repeatedly declared Washington’s military presence illegal, and continues to accuse US forces of stealing vast amounts of the country’s energy resources.

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