Bashar al-Assad’s military likely shot down a U.S. Predator drone in northwest Syria, U.S. officials told various news outlets.
The U.S. Air Force reportedly “lost” the aircraft Tuesday, a senior U.S. official told USA Today.
A Syrian military source told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the Assad air force shot down the drone because it was conducting reconnaissance in an area free of jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
“The evidence so far points to a Syrian surface-to-air missile that brought down the MQ1 Predator,” a senior U.S. military source to Fox News.
USA Today reports that U.S. military officials are weighing whether retaliation against the Syrian military is necessary.
The Assad regime has not fired on U.S. aircrafts since the America-led coalition started launching airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria last September.
“Military officials are scrambling to determine if the Predator — the first warplane lost by the military in its fight against Islamic State extremists — was attacked in airspace previously patrolled safely since September by the U.S.-led coalition,” explains USA Today. “The answer to that question will determine what, if any, retaliation against the Syrian military is justified.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Syrian military source pointed out that the aircraft was not immediately identified as being from the U.S.
Nevertheless, the drone was considered a hostile target.
“As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria’s territory,” the Syrian military source told the AFP.
The aircraft was flying over the coast province of Latakia when it was shot down. Latakia is considered an Assad stronghold.
A Syrian military source noted that the incident is being investigated.
U.S. Central Command is in charge of the air operations in Syria.
However, the drone apparently belongs to U.S. European Command, a senior military officer anonymously told USA Today.
European Command operates in Syria’s neighbor—Israel and Turkey—which lends credence to the notion that the aircraft may have veered off course.
“I’d probably be inclined to retaliate, so that Assad knows if he keeps up such behavior, worse things could befall him,” Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst at the Brookings Institution, told USA Today. “I believe we will need to do more over coming weeks and months in Syria, and so establishing credibility and thus deterrence is important.”
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