BEIRUT – The Islamic State group killed at least 40 U.S.-backed Syrian fighters, captured several alive and regained areas they lost earlier this month in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border in some of the most intense fighting in weeks, a war monitor and an agency linked to IS said Saturday.
Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have been on the offensive since early September under the cover of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition to capture the last pocket held by IS in Syria.
Friday’s fighting that lasted until the early hours of Saturday began when IS, taking advantage of a sandstorm, launched a counteroffensive against SDF positions east of the Euphrates river in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour that borders Iraq, activists said.
Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said they have no confirmation of exact figures “as both sides are taking casualties.” He called it a “difficult fight.”
“The sandstorm allowed an ISIS counterattack, which was surprising given the conditions, but now the air is clear and the Coalition will continue to increase air and fire support to assist our partners,” Ryan said using a term to refer to IS.