The U.S. led coalition said on Tuesday it had shot down an armed pro-Syrian drone that had been advancing on its forces near a garrison close to the border with Iraq in southeastern Syria.
In a statement, U.S. forces said the drone was shot at after it ‘displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces’.
One official said that the drone was shot down because it was ‘assessed to be a threat.’
The drone was an Iranian-made Shahed 129, thought to be armed in range of US troops (File of American drone pictured)
CNN reports the drone dropped several weapons it was carrying near a position where coalition personnel are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS.
The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces,’ according to a statement issued by Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS.
‘The Coalition forces were manning an established combat outpost to the northeast of At Tanf where they are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,’ the statement said.
‘This is the same location where another pro-regime UAV dropped munitions near Coalition forces before it was shot down, June 8.’
U.S. forces in Syria shot down an armed drone affiliated with groups supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government overnight. It happened near Al Tanf, where the U.S. military is using the area near Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan to train its local forces
The armed drone was determined to be a threat and was shot down after the drone ‘continued to advance on the Coalition position without diverting its course it was shot down,’ the statement added.
The coalition ‘has made it clear to all parties publicly and through the de-confliction line with Russian forces that the demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.’
Although the weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, American officials told the New York Times they do not know who directed it.
An American F-15E shot down the drone, which had dropped a bomb that missed its target.
Shortly afterwards, a Syrian warplane appeared and began maneuvering to bomb the American-backed fighters, only to be intercepted by an American F/A-18 jet.
‘When the airplane got close to where he wanted to deliver his bombs, he realized he had an F/A-18 behind it,’ said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who runs the coalition’s air war.
The Syrian SU-22 flew off and any conflict was averted.
‘We didn’t shoot it because he dumped his bombs off in the middle of the desert,’ General Harrigian added in a telephone interview from his command center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
This US Navy file photo shows an F/A-18E Super Hornet. The US says an SU-22 operated by the Syrian regime was dropping bombs on the Syrian Democratic Forces, a group that is aligned with the US, when it was shot out of the sky by a Super Hornet
The downing of the drone comes just days after a US F/A-18 shot down a regime warplane after dropping bombs near US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS in the area around Tabqah, Syria, in the north of country.
The US says an SU-22 operated by the Syrian regime was dropping bombs on the Syrian Democratic Forces when it was shot out of the sky by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet.
The United States moved quickly to contain the situation on Monday, with a top general saying Washington would work to relaunch the ‘deconfliction’ hotline with Russia that was established in 2015.
A Pentagon official told Russia that it would not back down, however, after Russia threatened to make US planes its targets.
‘We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened,’ Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told Fox News.
The downing of the jet and Russia’s response came as the US-led coalition and allied fighters battle to oust the Islamic State jihadist group from its Syrian bastion Raqqa.
Analysts say neither Washington nor President Bashar al-Assad’s regime appear to be seeking further confrontation, although the risks remain high in Syria’s increasingly crowded battlefields and airspace.
The Syrian jet was shot down on Sunday evening after regime forces engaged the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters battling IS, near Raqqa.
An American F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down the Syrian SU-22 as it ‘dropped bombs near SDF fighters’ south of the town of Tabqa, the coalition said in a statement.
Russia’s defense minister said the pilot ejected ‘above IS-controlled territories’ and that his fate is unknown.