More than a dozen U.S.-backed Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish fighters were killed in a series of airstrikes carried out by Turkish jets, two American defense officials confirmed to Fox News.
Both officials said there were no U.S. troops among the fighters who were hit.
“This is very serious,” said one outraged U.S. official.
Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hosted his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik, at the Pentagon for talks about the upcoming Raqqa offensive in Syria.
Both secretaries ignored a question from a reporter about the role Kurds would play in that operation.
“This is very serious.” – U.S. defense official
There are currently about 1,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. In March, 400 Marines deployed to Syria as part of an artillery battery to support U.S.-backed troops fighting around Raqqa.
Last week, Fox News reported ISIS leaders and hundreds of “bureaucrats” had been seen by U.S. military drones fleeing the terror group’s so-called capital during the past two months and heading to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, located 90 miles southeast of Raqqa. Some also fled to al-Mayadin, further down the Euphrates River and the location where U.S. special operations forces killed a mid-level associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi late last week.
The U.S. views the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG, as key allies in the fight against ISIS. Turkey views the group as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, a Turkish insurgent group that has conducted a decades long insurgency that’s killed thousands. Both Ankara and Washington consider the PKK a terrorist organization.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews