US warplane downs ‘hostile’ Syria drone
A US warplane shot down an Iran-made drone operated by pro-regime forces in southern Syria early on Tuesday, officials said, the second such incident in less than two weeks.
The US-led anti-ISIL coalition said an F-15E Strike Eagle jet destroyed the Shaheed-129 drone around 12.30am, north-east of the Al Tanaf garrison which is close to the Jordanian border.
“It displayed hostile intent and advanced on coalition forces,” the coalition said.
Coalition troops were working in the area alongside local forces who are being trained to fight ISIL.
A US military official said the drone was “on a run toward our folks to drop a munition on them”, so the coalition shot the unmanned aircraft down in self defence.
Al Tanaf, located on the key highway connecting Damascus with Baghdad, has been threatened by a surge of Iran-backed troops loyal to Syrian president Bashar Al Assad.
Coalition forces use the area – just north-east of the Jordanian border – as a training and staging area for attacks against ISIL.
The incident has similar hallmarks to a June 8 downing, when a US jet destroyed a pro-regime drone after it dropped what turned out to be a dud bomb near US-backed local forces.
It also comes after an American warplane shot down a Syrian government jet on Sunday in northern Syria as it “dropped bombs” near the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed alliance fighting ISIL.
The downing of the regime jet led Moscow to say it would sever a vital hotline it uses to communicate with the coalition to avoid mishaps in Syria’s increasingly crowded battlespace.
The coalition said on Tuesday it had killed ISIL’s self-proclaimed top cleric.
“Coalition forces killed Turki Bin’ali, the self-proclaimed ‘Grand Mufti’ or chief cleric of ISIS in an air strike May 31 in Mayadeen, Syria,” the coalition said.
Elsewhere, government air and artillery bombardments hit rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Deraa after a two-day ceasefire expired, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It came as US and Russian officials held talks on creating a “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria that would include Deraa.