Russian jet strikes US drone in northern Syria

MQ-9 Reaper drone damaged in second incident in 24 hours

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone was damaged in the encounter. Reuters
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A Russian fighter jet fired flares and struck a US drone in northern Syria on Wednesday, the White House said, the latest in a string of in-air confrontations that have angered Washington over the past month.

The US has hit out at Moscow over harassing manoeuvres against its drones and aircraft working in northern Syria as part of the anti-ISIS coalition.

“We’ve seen the reports, the early reports, of a second Russian fighter aircraft this week flying dangerously close to our drone,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Speaking to AFP, two US officials confirmed an MQ-9 Reaper was damaged in the incident – the second encounter in 24 hours and the sixth this month.

The drone was able to return to base after sustaining damage to its wing.

On Tuesday, Russian fighter jets deployed flares at an MQ-9 Reaper drone, damaging its propeller.

“The Russian fighter’s blatant disregard for flight safety detracts from our mission to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Lt Gen Alex Grynkewich, head of the US Air Forces Central Command.

In another instance, Russian jets flew “dangerously close” to a US-manned aircraft which Washington said put the lives of four crew at risk.

Russia's “close approach to and deployment of flares over US drones during a routine mission” violates international norms,” added Ms Jean-Pierre.

US officials said the drones were not armed with weapons and are commonly used for reconnaissance missions.

About 900 US forces are deployed in Syria to work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that are battling ISIS militants.

Although ISIS was territorially defeated in Syria in 2019, remnants remain active across the country and often stage attacks against the SDF.

US officials have previously warned that the group would return to power within “one to two years” if the US left Syria.

Washington has said it is committed to staying in the country to ensure the “enduring defeat” of ISIS.

ISIS attacks on government-held territory are also said to be on the rise.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 5:24 AM