US warplane blasts Syrian drone from sky

WASHINGTON - A U.S. warplane on Tuesday shot down an armed drone linked to Syrian regime forces, the latest in a series of clashes between U.S.-backed forces and the regime of Bashar Assad that risks drawing American forces deeper into the conflict.

The drone, an Iranian-built Shaheed-129, was shot down by an F-15E Strike Eagle after it "displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces," the U.S. military said in a statement.

The incident occurred in the same vicinity as previous conflicts with pro-regime forces, near the combat outpost in At-Tanf, where a contingent of U.S. and coalition advisers are supporting a force to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

The area around At-Tanf has become a flashpoint between U.S. forces and militias, some of them backed by Iran, loyal to Assad.

The U.S. military said it is not at war with the Assad regime, but is taking defensive actions to protect the U.S.-backed Syrian Defense Force (SDF). The SDF has been armed and trained to fight ISIS.

"The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat," the U.S. military said in a statement. "The coalition calls on all parties to focus their efforts on the defeat of ISIS, which is our common enemy and the greatest threat to regional and worldwide peace and security."

The U.S. action comes two days after a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian plane that was attacking U.S.-backed forces near Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital.

On Sunday, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 warplane shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 that had dropped bombs near Syrian opposition forces.

That took place near the Syrian city of Taqba, which has been the focus of fighting as U.S.-sponsored ground forces advance Raqqa.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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