Two Special Air Service (SAS) troopers were seriously injured during an Islamic State (ISIS) missile attack in an undisclosed location in eastern Syria. At least one Kurdish fighter was killed in the attack. The special operators were attached to Kurdish forces, providing their partners with essential joint terminal attack control (JTAC) capabilities—that is, coordinating airstrikes.
The two SAS troopers were CASEVACed by U.S. helicopters to a nearby hospital. According to reports, at least one of them appears to be in critical condition. Although not verified—neither the British government nor the British military comment on issues pertaining to the United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF)—the attack appears to have happened sometime on Saturday, January 5.
The two SAS troopers were supporting a Kurdish and SDF attack in the proximity of the towns of Ash Sha’Fah and Hajin. There, ISIS fighters had been entrenched, creating a stronghold with trenches, tunnels, mortar positions, observation posts, and mined paths, awaiting the advancing allied forces. After a fierce fight, the ISIS terrorists were forced to withdraw with heavy casualties. According to the SDF, more than 71 ISIS fighters were killed, and 129 allied airstrikes were called in.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued the following statement: “Heavy clashes took place between our forces and [a] terrorist organization’s members, in Hajin city and its surrounding area. This occurred after an attack by terrorists who used all the sorts of heavy and light weapons including Doshka [sic]…our fighters launched an attack on the terrorist organization’s locations, so heavy clashes occurred as a result in this axis, many terrorists were killed and wounded, further, our forces went forward and controlled many new points.”
These aren’t the first casualties the SAS has incurred in Syria. Last April, Sergeant Matt Tonroe, an SAS trooper, and Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar, a Delta Force operator, were killed—and five more operators wounded—by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on a kill-or-capture mission in Syria.
The UKSF is comprised of the SAS, the Special Boat Service (SBS), the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), and the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). The British commandos are part of a U.S-led international coalition supporting SDF and Kurdish forces with airstrikes against ISIS inside Syria. The joint task force is about 2,000 strong and comprised of special operations forces (SOF) from around the world, to include Delta Force, the SAS, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), and the Canadian Joint Task Force 2 (JTF-2). Its mission, however, is up in the air following the decision of U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw all American troops from Syria.