(CNSNews.com) – Paying tribute to the four American killed in a reported suicide bombing in northern Syria on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence declared that, as the U.S. withdraws its troops from that country, it “will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever.”
ISIS claimed responsibility for the early-afternoon attack, which killed and wounded U.S. and allied personnel in the city of Manbij.
U.S. Central Command confirmed that four Americans had been killed – two service members, a Department of Defense civilian and a contractor supporting the Department of Defense – “while conducting a local engagement in Manbij.”
Three service members had been injured, it said, adding that “Initial reports indicate an explosion caused the casualties, and the incident is under investigation.”
Earlier a monitoring group with sources in the area said that among the dead were five local allies of the U.S., and nine civilians.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the blast occurred outside a restaurant called Qasr al-Omara on a busy street in the city, and that a helicopter had landed in the vicinity afterwards to evacuate the dead and wounded.
The Kurdish ANHA Hawar news agency confirmed the location of the bombing, near the eatery, and posted a video clip purportedly showing the moment of the explosion.
“President Trump and I condemn the terrorist attack in Syria that claimed American lives and our hearts are with the loved ones of the fallen,” Pence said in a statement. “We honor their memory and we will never forget their service and sacrifice.”
“Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities,” the vice president added. “As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate – not now, not ever.”
In an earlier statement White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “Our deepest sympathies and love go out to the families of the brave American heroes who were killed today in Syria. We also pray for the soldiers who were wounded in the attack. Our service members and their families have all sacrificed so much for our country.”
Almost a month ago Trump first announced plans to withdraw from Syria the 2,000 U.S. troops who have been deployed there, mostly in support of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprising Kurdish and Arab allies in the fight against ISIS.
‘Heinous criminal act’
Manbij, located near Syria’s border with Turkey, is under control of a body called the Manbij Military Council (MMC), which was set up by the SDF after it wrested control of the city from ISIS jihadists in 2016.
In a statement, the MMC expressed condolences to the families of the American soldiers and the other victims of the bombing, whom it said included women and children. It said it would remember the “heroes … who have sacrificed their lives to protect children.”
“We at MMC strongly condemn this heinous criminal act which once again demonstrated that the terrorists are still capable of carrying out their operations which obligate us to continue our moral and security missions to save our people and the world from this organization that is targeting our lives and security,” the group said.
The MMC said the attack would not discourage it, but “increase our strength and determination to continue to thwart the various terrorist and criminal schemes that aim at the security and stability of the city and the cities of northern and eastern Syria.”
Before Wednesday’s attack, four U.S. military personnel had died in Syria since 2016, two of them in combat circumstances.
Army Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, who died on March 30, 2018, also in Manbij, as a result of injuries when an IED was detonated near his patrol. Dunbar, who was assigned to U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., was involved at the time in a raid to kill or capture an ISIS terror, and was killed along with a British commando, Sgt. Matt Tonroe, 33.
Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Dayton, 42, of Woodbridge, Virginia, who died on Nov. 24, 2016, in Ayn Issa, about 60 miles east of Manbij, of wounds sustained in an IED blast. Dayton had been assigned to a Virginia Beach-based unit specializing in the neutralizing and disposal of explosives. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with “V” (valor) device, “for making the ultimate sacrifice in service to his nation.”
Army Spc. Etienne Murphy, 22, of Loganville, Georgia, who died May 26, 2017, in Al-Hasakah, north-eastern Syria, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover related incident.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, 25, of Umatilla, Oregon, died on March 28, 2017 in northern Syria in a non-combat-related incident while deployed in support of combat operations.