The U.S. military admitted Wednesday a bundle of ammunition and weapons dropped over the Syrian border town of Kobane drifted off course and likely ended up in the hands of Islamic State jihadists instead of Kurdish forces.
Officials said they had no reason to doubt the authenticity of a video posted online on Tuesday showing a masked gunman displaying a parachute and wooden crates full of grenades and rockets.
After an airdrop of weapons and medical supplies to Kurdish fighters in Kobane early on Monday, the U.S. military had acknowledged that one of 28 bundles had missed and had to be destroyed in an air strike.
But Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren on Wednesday told reporters “a second bundle also went astray and probably fell into enemy hands.”
A Britain-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, had reported on Tuesday that the parachuted bundle had ended up with the IS group.
Warren said dropping supplies from the air was “extraordinarily complex” and it was “very common” for wind to blow a bundle off its intended target.
“We still know that the vast majority of the resupply bundles that we dropped went to friendly forces and were received by friendly forces,” he said.
“There is always going to be some margin of error in these types of operations. We routinely overload these aircraft because we know some bundles may go astray.”
He said that the items that likely fell into IS hands were “not enough equipment to give the enemy any type of advantage at all.”
Washington has expanded its support to the Kurdish fighters in Kobane in the past week, ramping up air strikes and air dropping supplies from three C-130 cargo aircraft. The ammunition and medical items dropped by parachute were supplied by Kurdish authorities in Iraq, officials said.
Kobane has become a high-stakes symbolic battle for both sides, with the IS group pouring in resources to try to seize the predominantly Kurdish town, which lies near the Turkish border.