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Helicopter "mishap" in Syria injures 22 U.S. service members, U.S. military says

U.S. servicemembers injured in helicopter "mishap"
22 U.S. servicemembers injured in helicopter "mishap" in Syria 00:23

Beirut — A helicopter "mishap" in northeast Syria over the weekend left 22 United States service members injured, the U.S. military said Tuesday, adding that the cause of the accident was under investigation.

A statement from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said they were being treated and 15 were moved to "higher care facilities" outside the region. A Defense Department official said all were in stable condition.

It said "a helicopter mishap in northeastern Syria resulted in the injuries of various degrees of 22 U.S. service members" and Sunday's accident is under investigation "although no enemy fire was reported."

The Pentagon said the MH-47 Chinook helicopter had a mechanical failure while landing at a staging base.

A spokesman for the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces didn't immediately respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

There are at least 900 U.S. forces in Syria on average, along with an undisclosed number of contractors. U.S. special operations forces also move in and out of the country but are usually in small teams and aren't included in the official count.

U.S. forces have been in Syria since 2015 to advise and assist the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against ISIS. Since its defeat in Syria in March 2019, U.S. troops have been trying to prevent any comeback by ISIS, which swept through Iraq and Syria in 2014, taking control of large swaths of territory.

However, ISIS sleeper cells remain a threat. There are also about 10,000 ISIS fighters being held in detention facilities in Syria and tens of thousands of their family members living in two refugee camps in the country's northeast.

Over the past years, U.S. troops have been subjected to attacks carried out by ISIS members and Iran-backed fighters there. In late March, a drone attack on a U.S. base killed a contractor and wounded five American troops and another contractor. In retaliation, U.S. fighter jets struck several locations around the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which borders Iraq.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 19 people were killed in the U.S. strikes, Agence France-Presse reports.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the time that the strikes were a response to the drone attack as well as a series of recent attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

In a related development, Syrian Kurdish-led authorities announced Saturday that hundreds of ISIS fighters held in prisons around the region will be put on trial after their home countries refused to repatriate them.


Editor's note: An earlier version of this story cited CENTCOM as saying 10 service members were moved to care facilities outside the region. The Pentagon later amended that number and added some details about the incident. Those changes are reflected in the story above.

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