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US-backed forces capture Syria suspects tied to American deaths: sources

FILE PHOTO: The casket carrying the remains of Scott Wirtz, a civilian employee of the US Defense Intelligence Agency killed along with three members of the US military during a recent attack in Syria, sits in a military vehicle during a dignified transfer ceremony as they are returned to the United States at Dover Air Force Base, in Dover, Delaware, US, January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
2019-03-19

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SULAIMANI — US-backed forces have captured Islamic State fighters tied to a January suicide bombing in Syria that killed four Americans, US officials say, generating concrete leads for Washington about the deadliest attack to date there against US personnel.

The bombing killed Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent and Scott Wirtz from the Defense Intelligence Agency. It also killed Ghadir Taher, a naturalized US citizen working as a civilian interpreter for a US contractor, Reuters reported on Tuesday (March 19).

One of the officials told Reuters the number of people detained was in the “single digits.” A second official said there were several “initial detentions” made in February, without offering a specific number. The detentions have not been previously reported.

“Those initial detentions have provided some leads and opportunities that we are continuing to exploit,” the second official said, speaking on condition of anonymity and declining to offer additional details.

“The investigation is ongoing as are efforts to bring all of those terrorists responsible to justice.”

The attack was the worst single incident involving US personnel in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015 and took place at a cafe in the town of Manbij, which was controlled by a group allied to US-backed Kurdish forces.

The bombing occurred nearly a month after President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team and allies with a surprise decision on Dec. 19 to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring Islamic State had been defeated there.

Critics seized on the killings as clear evidence that the Islamic State still posed a threat.

Trump backtracked in February, agreeing to leave a small US presence to help keep pressure on Islamic State during what the US military believes will be a critical stabilization phase in Syria. The United States is seeking contributions from allies including Britain and France to remain in Syria.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)