U.S. warplanes have been bombing targets inside Syria to help tens of thousands of militia fighters try to oust the Islamic State from Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in the country.
BEIRUT — The U.S. military suffered its first combat death in Syria on Thursday when a service member was killed in the northern part of the country, where the United States is helping organize an offensive against the Islamic State group.
U.S. warplanes have been bombing targets inside Syria to help tens of thousands of militia fighters try to oust the Islamic State group, or ISIS, from Raqqa, the group’s stronghold in the country.
U.S. forces are also on the ground. More than 300 members of the U.S. Special Operations Forces are in Syria to help recruit, train and advise the Kurdish and Arab fighters who are trying to encircle ISIS in Raqqa, cut off its supplies and retake the city.
The special-forces member who died Thursday was killed by an improvised explosive device near Ayn Issa in northern Syria, U.S. military officials 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 ISIL,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement, using one of the names for the extremist group. The service member was not identified.
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The death Thursday demonstrates how volatile the campaign against ISIS is in Syria and Iraq. U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq, and this month the United States acknowledged killing 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria since it began military operations against ISIS in 2014.
Three Turkish soldiers were also killed Thursday by Syrian warplanes, the Turkish military announced. It was the first time Turkish soldiers had been killed by Syrian government forces while fighting inside Syria since the civil war there began, the Turkish military said. Ten Turkish soldiers also were wounded.
The announcement heightened the tensions between Syria and Turkey, neighbors that have powerful allies.
The Syrian government is backed by Russia and Iran.
Turkey, a member of NATO, began a major offensive in northern Syria in August as part of its fight against ISIS.
Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, reaffirmed the assessment of Turkey’s military chief, Gen. Hulusi Akar, that the attack was carried out by Syrian government warplanes.
Some raised questions about whether the strike was undertaken by Syrian forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a network based in Britain that monitors news from Syria, said the strike was by ISIS. But ISIS is not known to have combat aircraft.