Suspected Iran drone kills US worker in Syria; US retaliates
A strike Thursday by a suspected Iranian-made drone killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five American troops and another contractor in northeast Syria, the Pentagon said. American forces said they retaliated soon after with “precision airstrikes” in Syria targeting facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, with activist groups saying they killed at least four people. The attack and the U.S. response threaten to upend recent efforts to deescalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward détente in recent days after years of turmoil. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the American intelligence community had determined the drone was of Iranian origin, but offered no other immediate evidence to support the claim. “The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria" by groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, Austin said. Iran relies on a network of proxy forces through the Mideast to counter the U.S. and Israel, its arch regional enemy. The Pentagon said two of the wounded service members were treated on-site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq. Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir el-Zour, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields. Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes. Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the strikes, nor did their officials at the United Nations in New York respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. The activist group Deir Ezzor 24 put the death toll from the American strikes at four people. Deir Ezzor 24, which covers news in Deir el-Zour province, said the strikes hit the city of Deir el-Zour as well as militiamen posts near Mayadeen and Boukamal. It said the strikes also wounded people, including Iraqis. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that the American strikes killed six Iranian-backed fighters at an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour. The Observatory, which relies on a network of local contacts in Syria, said U.S. bombing at a post near the town of Mayadeen killed two fighters. A separate American strike hit a military post near the town of Boukamal along the border with Iraq, killing another three fighters, the Observatory said. The AP could not immediately independently confirm the activist reports. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out attacks with bomb-carrying drones across the wider Middle East. In recent months, Russia has begun using Iranian drones in its attacks on sites across Ukraine as part of its war on Kyiv. Iran has issued a series of conflicting denials about its drones being used in the war, though Western nations and experts have tied components in the drones back to Tehran. The exchange of strikes came as Saudi Arabia and Iran have been working toward reopening embassies in each other’s countries. The kingdom also acknowledged efforts to reopen a Saudi embassy in Syria, whose embattled President Bashar Assad has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war. U.S. Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of the American military’s Central Command, warned that American forces could carry out additional strikes if needed. “We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” Kurilla said in a statement. Addressing the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Kurilla warned lawmakers that the “Iran of today is exponentially more militarily capable than it was even five years ago.” He pointed to Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and bomb-carrying drones. Kurilla also alleged that Iran had launched some 78 attacks on U.S. positions in Syria since January 2021. “What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies,” Kurilla said. Diplomacy to deescalate the crisis appeared to begin immediately around the strikes. Qatar’s state-run news agency reported a call between its foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. recently amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program. Qatar’s foreign minister also spoke around the same time with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. Austin said he authorized the retaliatory strikes at the direction of President Joe Biden. “As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.” The U.S. under Biden has struck Syria previously over tensions with Iran. In February and June of 2021, as well as August 2022, Biden launched attacks there. U.S. forces entered Syria in 2015, backing allied forces in their fight against the Islamic State group. The U.S. still maintains the base near Hasakah in northeast Syria where Thursday's drone strike happened. There are roughly 900 U.S. troops, and even more contractors, in Syria, including in the north and farther south and east. Since the U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Iran has sought “to make life difficult for U.S. forces stationed east of the Euphrates,” said Hamidreza Azizi, an expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “Iran increased its support for local proxies in Deir el-Zour while trying to ally with the tribal forces in the area,” Azizi wrote in a recent analysis. “Due to the geographical proximity, Iraqi groups also intensified their activities in the border strip with Syria and in the Deir el-Zour province.” The strikes come during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Syria’s war began with the 2011 Arab Spring protests that roiled the wider Middle East and toppled governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It later morphed into a regional proxy conflict that has seen Russia and Iran back Assad. The United Nations estimates over 300,000 civilians have been killed in the war. Those figures do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands.
Kyiv targeted in early morning drone attack: Authorities
Ukraine's capital was targeted by multiple drones in an attack early Monday, authorities reported, three days after what they described as one of Russia's biggest assaults on Kyiv since the beginning of the war. The Kyiv city administration said on its Telegram account that more than 20 Iranian-made drones were detected over the capital's air space and at least 15 of them were shot down. It added that a critical infrastructure point was hit, without giving more details. Read more: Jewish festival of lights begins in Ukraine as battles rage Kyiv region Gov. Oleksii Kuleba said on Telegram that some infrastructure facilities were damaged, as well as private houses, and at least two people were injured. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that explosions were heard in two districts, Shevchenkivskyi and Solomianskyi. He said also on Telegram that there were no immediate casualties reported, and that the emergency services are working in the area. Although the capital seemed the main target of the latest Russian attack, the armed forces said that other places in the country were also targeted. Ukraine's air force said on Telegram that they were able to destroy 30 of at least 35 self-explosives drones that Russia launched across the country from the eastern side of the Azov Sea. Read more: Dead boy pulled from rubble of latest Russian hit on Ukraine The Ukrainian military has reported increasing success in shooting down missiles and explosive drones. Russia has been targeting energy infrastructure, including in Kyiv, as part of a strategy to try to freeze Ukrainians. On Friday, Ukraine’s capital was attacked as part of a massive strike from Russia. Dozens of missiles were launched across the country, triggering widespread power outages.
Russian airfield hit, a day after drone strikes on bases
A fire broke out early Tuesday at an airport in Russia’s southern Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, the regional governor reported, blaming a drone attack. The fire occurred the day after Moscow blamed Kyiv for drone strikes on two air bases deep inside Russia and launched another wave of missile strikes on Ukrainian territory. “As a result of a drone attack, an oil reservoir caught on fire in the area of Kursk airport. The fire is being contained. All emergency services are working on the spot,” Kursk Governor Roman Starovoy said in a Telegram post. Read more: Russia claims Kyiv hit its air bases, fires more missiles Ukrainian officials have not formally confirmed carrying out the attacks. The unprecedented attacks in Russia threatened a major escalation of the nine-month war. One of the airfields that was hit houses bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The attacks showed the vulnerability of some of Russia’s most strategic military sites, raising questions about the effectiveness of their air defenses if drones could come so close to them. The ministry didn’t say where the drones had originated, but Russian military bloggers said they likely were launched by Ukrainian scouts. The Russian Defense Ministry said it had shot down two Ukrainian drones. It said three Russian servicemen were killed and four others wounded by debris, and that two aircraft were slightly damaged. Read more: Ukrainians hid orphaned children from Russian deportation The attacks on the Engels base in the Saratov region on the Volga River and the Dyagilevo base in the Ryazan region in western Russia were part of Ukraine’s efforts to curtail Russia’s long-range bomber force, the ministry said. The Engels base, located more than 600 kilometers (more than 370 miles) east of the border with Ukraine, houses the Tu-95 and Tu-160 nuclear-capable strategic bombers that have been involved in launching strikes on Ukraine. The Dyagilevo air base, which houses tanker aircraft used to refuel other planes in flight, is about 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian border.
Bangladesh condemns bomb-laden drone attack in Saudi Arabia
Bangladesh has strongly condemned the recent Houthi bomb-laden drone attack targeting Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Airport that wounded civilians, including few Bangladeshis, working at the airport. Such attacks are a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, moral values and completely unacceptable, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. Bangladesh expressed its grave concerns over the growing number of Houthi militia attacks on Saudi Arabia which undermines the ongoing peace initiatives. Read: Bangladeshi’s conviction: FM says evidence to be shared with Saudi govt While urging a peaceful resolution to Yemen conflict, Bangladesh expressed its solidarity with the government of Saudi Arabia and its brotherly people in condemning such irresponsible activities. The Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh has been asked to look after Bangladeshi citizens injured in latest Houthi attack and provide necessary support.
Twin blasts rock Indian Air Force base in first-ever drone attack
In a first-ever drone attack on a military facility in India, two back-to-back blasts rocked a high-security Air Force station in the central government-controlled territory of Jammu and Kashmir early on Sunday. Two Indian Air Force personal sustained minor injuries in the explosions that took place in the technical area of the Jammu Air Force Station barely six minutes apart. The first blast ripped off the roof of a building inside the airport, the Indian Air Force said. "Two low intensity explosions were reported early Sunday morning in the technical area of Jammu Air Force Station. One caused minor damage to the roof of a building while the other exploded in an open area," the Air Force tweeted. READ: Dhaka condemns Drone attacks targeting KSA, Abha Int'l Airport by Houthi rebels "There was no damage to any equipment. Investigation is in progress along with civil agencies," it added. Sources also told UNB that the anti-terror National Investigation Agency has been roped in to assist in the probe. "Preliminary probe suggests that drones were used to trigger the explosions," sources said. The central government-controlled territory's police chief Dilbag Singh told the local media that it was a terror attack and cases under the anti-terror law have been registered at the local station. Earlier in the day, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took stock of the situation and asked the Vice Chief of the Air Force to rush to the high security airport. "Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh spoke to Vice Air Chief, Air Marshal HS Arora regarding today’s incident at Air Force Station in Jammu. Air Marshal Vikram Singh is reaching Jammu to take stock of the situation," the Defence Minister's Office tweeted. Five years ago, another high-security Indian Air Force station in Pathankot town in the neighbouring state of Punjab was attacked by a heavily armed group. The Pathankot Air Force Station is under the Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force. READ: Was the drone attack on Iranian general an assassination? Five militants and seven Indian soldiers were killed during three days of fighting at the Pathankot station in January 2016. A Kashmir-based militant outfit had claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, believed to been carried out to detail peace moves by arch-rivals India and Pakistan.
Was the drone attack on Iranian general an assassination?
After Friday's targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, newsrooms struggled with the question: Had the United States just carried out an assassination? And should news stories about the killing use that term?