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US destroys pro-Syrian regime tank in second ‘self-defense’ strike in a week

By Published: February 13, 2018

By Corey Dickstein

Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON – An American drone attack Saturday in eastern Syria destroyed a pro-regime tank after it shot at U.S.-backed anti-Islamic State forces and their American military advisers, in a second “self-defense” strike in recent days, a top general said Tuesday.

An MQ-9 Reaper destroyed the T-72 tank operated by forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad, which had approached the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the remnants of ISIS along the Euphrates River, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces Central commander. He declined to identify which group the Russian-made tank belonged to, saying it was likely from the same pro-Assad unit that attacked an SDF headquarters element Feb. 7 in eastern Syria.

“We were doing normal operations – getting back after ISIS and ensuring our area was secure – when we saw the tank took a shot at us … we again executed self-defense rules of engagement,” Harrigian said of the Saturday attack. “That is something we always have the right to do.”

The strike Saturday was the only recent reported attack against SDF fighters by pro-regime forces following the Feb. 7 artillery and tank assault by the same group. U.S. ground commanders ordered a massive response to that assault – which included several hundred pro-regime fighters – tasking F-15E fighters, B-52 bombers, AH-64 attack helicopters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, AC-130 gunships and ground-based artillery to bombard the attackers, Herrigian said.

The general declined to say how many bombs were used in that three-hour counterassault that eventually drove away the pro-regime forces, destroying several of their tanks and artillery pieces.

He warned against pro-Assad or other forces targeting U.S.-backed groups or American military advisers.

“It should be crystal clear to anyone that’s going to attempt to prosecute an attack on us that that it will be a very long day for them,” Herrigian said.

dickstein.corey@stripes.com

Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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