U.S. special forces based in Syria have been caught in Turkish artillery fire, according to Newsweek. It remains unclear whether there were any other casualties.
The contingent of U.S. troops was operating in the Kurdish-dominated city of Kobani in northeastern Syria when they were hit by shelling from Turkey’s military, which is currently invading the region.
A senior Pentagon official confirmed the incident, saying Turkish forces should have precise knowledge of American positions.
Earlier on Friday Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that a small number of special forces had been moved back from the Syrian border with Turkey in advance of the Turkish incursion into Kurdish territory. President Trump was met with bipartisan criticism when he announced the move on Monday as prominent lawmakers and pundits interpreted the development as an indication that the U.S. had signed off on the invasion.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated the goal of the operation is to secure an area inside Syria to resettle 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey, as well as to fight Kurdish groups Turkey deems terrorist organizations.
The U.S. partnered with several of those groups to combat ISIS. There are roughly 12,000 ISIS prisoners currently held in Kurdish detention facilities, although it is unclear what will happen to them as a result of the invasion.
Meanwhile, the commander of the heavily-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, General Mazlum Kobani Abdi, confirmed in an interview that Turkish shelling hit a prison with ISIS fighters in Syria, and five ISIS fighters managed to escape.
The United Nations estimated that over 100,000 people fled the region in anticipation of Turkey’s invasion.
Update: 8.15 p.m. A senior military official confirmed to the New York Times that an explosion did occur in the vicinity of U.S. forces in Northern Syria but there were no casualties. “Saying U.S. service members were attacked” would be “not accurate,” according to the official.