The 22 United States troops who were wounded in the June 11 northeastern Syria helicopter incident were part of the highly secretive Delta Force commando unit, The New York Times reported on June 13, citing three senior military officials.
The U.S. Central Command announced the incident in a statement on June 12. The statement said that ten of the wounded troops had been evacuated to hospitals outside the region and that an inquiry was underway.
Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said later that the helicopter “had a problem with one rotor that caused a hard landing during takeoff.”
The Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV said that the incident took place at
the al-Shaddadi base, which is located in a gas and oil field in the southern al-Hasakah countryside. The base hosts one of the U.S.-led coalition’s main heliports in the region, where nearly a dozen attack and transport helicopters are usually deployed.
Citing its sources, The New York Times said that the helicopter carrying the commandos, an MH-47 Chinook, had gone down in apparently good weather and without taking hostile fire.
The ten most seriously wounded troops were flown to an American medical hospital in Germany, but none of their injuries were life-threatening, the sources added.
The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment–Delta, referred to as Delta Force, is a special operations force of the U.S. Army, under the operational control of the Joint Special Operations Command. The unit’s missions primarily involve counterterrorism, hostage rescue, direct action, and special reconnaissance, often against high-value targets.
The incident came just ten days after The Washington Post released a report on an alleged plan by Iran’s Quds Force, Hezbollah, and the Syrian intelligence to launch more attacks against U.S. troops in the country.
The U.S. maintains some 900 troops in Syria’s northeastern region and the southeastern area of al-Tanf under the pretext of fighting ISIS. This deployment is not sanctioned by the Damascus government, which considers it to be an unlawful occupation.
In March, three U.S. bases in Deir Ezzor and al-Hasakah were attacked with rockets and drones. The attacks, which were reportedly carried out by forces backed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed the life of a U.S. military contractor and left 23 U.S. service members and a second U.S. contractor wounded. Back then, the U.S. responded with a series of airstrikes on the government-held part of Deir Ezzor, killing eight Iranian-backed fighters.