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1st Casualty for U.S. Forces in Syria Fighting | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Syrian man comforts a boy amid the rubble of buildings following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighborhood of al-Kalasa in Aleppo. AFP / THAER MOHAMMED

The United States military suffered its first combat death in Syria on Thursday after a service member died from his wounds following a blast caused by an improvised explosive device.

The man was wounded by the explosion in the vicinity of Ayn Issa, in northern Syria, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS, was quoted as saying in a CENTCOM statement.

“The entire counter-ISIS Coalition sends our condolences to this hero’s family, friends and teammates,” Townsend said.

The victim’s identity was not immediately released. The coalition’s policy is to defer to the relevant national authorities, the statement said.

The death came as Americans celebrate their national holiday of Thanksgiving.

“On this Thanksgiving, please be thankful that there are service members willing to take up the fight to protect our homeland from ISIS’ hateful and brutal ideology,” Townsend said.

“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 ISIS,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement. “It is a painful reminder of the dangers our men and women in uniform face around the world to keep us safe.”

For more than two years the United States has led a 66-nation coalition using air strikes against the jihadists’ positions in Syria and Iraq.

Washington also has deployed special forces in Syria to advise the Arab-Kurdish alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and improve the coalition’s targeting of air strikes.

As many as 300 U.S. special forces personnel may be in Syria.

A Turkish soldier has also been killed in northern Syria in clashes with ISIS jihadists, the army said Friday, in the latest fatality in Ankara’s three month campaign.

The death comes after four Turkish troops died Thursday in what the army said was an air strike in northern Syria by regime forces.

Seventeen Turkish soldiers have been killed since the military began an unprecedented operation there on August 24 to back pro-Ankara rebels.