US launches air strike in Syria after Iranian drone attack kills American contractor

A US tank in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor province. The region has seen a number of recent strikes on coalition forces - AP
A US tank in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor province. The region has seen a number of recent strikes on coalition forces - AP

The US carried out "precision air strikes" in Syria after a drone attack earlier in the day killed one American contractor, injured another, and wounded five US troops, the Pentagon said.

A Department of Defense official American staff were targeted by a drone strike on coalition base facility near Hasakah, in north east Syria, at about 1.40pm local time (10.38am UK).

The DOD linked the attack to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of Iran's armed forces.

In a statement, the DOD said its intelligence had determined the unmanned aerial vehicle was of Iranian origin.

Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said President Joe Biden authorised a retaliation against facilities in eastern Syria used by groups affiliated with the IRGC.

“The air strikes 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 IRGC," Mr Austin said.

Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir Ez-Zor, 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 air strikes by Israel in recent months, allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes.

Syria’s state-run Sana news agency did not immediately acknowledge any strikes. Syria’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Qatar’s state-run news agency reported a call between its foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser. Doha has recently been an interlocutor between Iran and the US amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran over the strikes, which come during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Mr Austin said he authorised the retaliatory strikes at the direction of Mr 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,” Mr Austin said.

“No group will strike our troops with impunity.”

The Pentagon said two of the wounded servicemembers were treated on site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq