“U.S. Special Operations forces under the control of U.S. Central Command conducted a counterterrorism mission this evening in northwest Syria. The mission was successful. There were no U.S. casualties,” said John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, in a statement. “More information will be provided as it becomes available.”
One of the helicopters used in the mission experienced a mechanical problem and then had to be blown up on the ground by U.S. forces, according to a U.S. official.
No details were provided on who was the target of the counterterrorism mission or whether it involved ground troops and helicopters as was claimed in a flurry of social media reports emerging from Syria on Wednesday night.
Those social media posts reported possible U.S. military activity in Idlib province, a town in far western Syria, close to the border with Turkey. Some posts included videos that seemed to show night scenes where the sounds of gunfire and low-flying helicopters could be heard near the towns of Atimah and Dar Ballout.
The approximately 1,000 U.S. military troops in Syria operate in eastern Syria supporting the mission against ISIS.
American troops do not operate in government-controlled areas in northwestern Syria, especially in Idlib province, which was an extremist safe haven for much of the last decade. But they have sporadically carried out counterterrorism missions in Idlib, targeting various Islamic extremist groups with drone strikes.
The highest profile mission was a ground raid that killed ISIS’ top leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who was hiding out in a house close to the border with Turkey, on Oct. 27, 2019.