At least 16 American soldiers have been killed in a ISIS suicide attack while conducting a routine patrol in northern Syria.
The deadly explosion in the town of Manbijon comes weeks after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw all 2000 US forces from Syria after declaring that ISIS had been defeated.
Prior to Wednesday’s attack, only two US troops had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014.
Initial reports by US officials suggested four troops were killed.
On Thursday morning (Australian time), a war monitor revealed 16 people had been killed by the blast which an Islamic State-affiliated website said was the work of a suicide bomber.
It appears to be the deadliest attack on US forces in Syria since they were deployed on the ground there in 2015.
Mr Trump’s surprise announcement in December that he would pull out all American forces helped trigger the resignation of his defence secretary, Jim Mattis, which stunned allies and raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish military offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
A witness in the city said the attack had targeted a restaurant where US personnel were meeting members of the local militia that Washington backs there.
Two witnesses described the blast to Reuters.
“An explosion hit near a restaurant, targeting the Americans, and there were some forces from the Manbij Military Council with them,” one said.
The Manbij Military Council militia has controlled the town since US-backed Kurdish-led forces took it from Islamic State in 2016.
It is near areas held by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and by anti-Assad fighters backed by Turkey.
One of the witnesses said there was a “heavy” presence of military aircraft over Manbij following the blast, which took place near a vegetable market.