US fighter jet downs a drone belonging to NATO ally Turkey over Syria, officials say

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A US F-16 fighter jet shot down an armed Turkish drone in northeast Syria that was operating near US military personnel and Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, officials familiar with the incident told CNN.

The US assessed the armed drone posed a potential threat and issued more than a dozen warnings before shooting it down, the officials said. It is unclear how the warnings were issued. US forces exercised their right to self-defense in shooting down the drone, officials said.

There were no reports of US casualties, an official said.

Several drones made repeated approaches toward US troop positions in Hasakah, Syria, the officials said. Turkish airstrikes targeted several Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Thursday, killing at least eight people, including six security forces, and wounded three civilians, according to a statement by Kurdish Internal Security Force, Asayish.

The incidents put the US in a precarious position. Turkey is a NATO ally and a critical partner for the US in the region, as well as playing a key role in the Ukraine conflict. At the same time, the SDF partners with the US in the campaign to defeat ISIS.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said the drone didn’t belong to the Turkish armed forces, Reuters reported. CNN is reaching out to the Turkish government.

US officials do not believe the drone was targeting American personnel specifically, but US forces operate closely alongside the Kurds in northern Syria as part of the anti-ISIS coalition there. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces to be a terrorist organization and regularly targets them inside Iraq and Syria.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Wednesday that Turkey considers all Kurdish militia facilities and infrastructure in Syria and Iraq as “legitimate targets” after the Kurdistan Workers Party carried out a suicide attack in Ankara on Sunday.

Fidan added that “third parties” should stay away from the Kurds.

“I advise third parties to stay away from PKK and YPG facilities and individuals,” he said. “Our armed forces’ response to this terrorist attack will be extremely clear and they will once again regret committing such an action.”

Last November, a Turkish drone strike in northeast Syria endangered US troops and personnel, according to the US military. That prompted a call between the top US general and his Turkish counterpart.

The strike targeted a base near Hasakah, Syria, used by US and coalition forces in the ongoing campaign to defeat ISIS. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said two of their fighters were killed in the attack. The strike earned a stern rebuke from the Pentagon, which said it “directly threatened the safety of US personnel.”


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