ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Two British soldiers were injured during heavy fighting against the so-called Islamic State (IS) in ash-Sha’fah in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province on Saturday, a Kurdish military source told Kurdistan 24.
Kamiran Sadoun, a Syrian Kurdish fixer, visited the Al-Omar hospital and spoke with one of the two injured Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters who was embedded with the British forces.
Sadoun told Kurdistan 24 he met two SDF soldiers at the hospital. “One of them was heavily injured and the other one was okay,” he said, adding one SDF fighter was killed.
According to Sadoun, one of the injured SDF troops said they were with some five to seven British soldiers who were also wounded.
Meanwhile, a source from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), who spoke to Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity, said no YPG fighters were killed but that two British soldiers and two members of the SDF were injured.
“IS carried out a guided missile attack in ash-Sha’fah,” the source said.
“US helicopters evacuated them [British soldiers] from the area immediately,” the source added. “They are now under treatment in hospital. I don’t know where they have been taken.”
Although the UK Ministry of Defense does not confirm this, British forces are on the frontlines in the fight against IS, the YPG source said.
A UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told the BBC that they “do not comment on special forces.”
In August 2016, the BBC published photographs that confirmed British special forces were operating on the ground in Syria.
Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24 that International Coalition forces have used the SDF as their main vehicle to conduct the counter-IS campaign for years now.
“It is unsurprising that Coalition special forces would feel comfortable enough with the SDF to directly fight with them against IS,” Heras said. “This was the whole purpose of the SDF, to work closely with the Coalition.”
“Western forces are very important [in] helping the SDF build its capacity to be able to operate independently.”
Mark Campbell, the Co-Chair of the Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign, told Kurdistan 24 that the injuries to British troops “shows that Kurdish and British forces are fighting hard side by side against IS in Syria.”
“The UK should now do the right thing and help establish a no-fly zone for Kurdish forces threatened by Turkish forces in northern Syria, an attack that would seriously weaken the fight against IS,” he added.
Campbell recalled how former British prime minister John Major saved the Kurds in Iraq in 1991 by helping establish a no-fly zone against attacks from Saddam Hussein.
“The UK government should do the same in northern Syria to protect the Kurds, their coalition partners who they are fighting side by side with against IS in Syria,” he concluded.
Until now, SDF fighters are still engaged in heavy fighting in Deir al-Zor with support from the coalition despite claims by US President Donald Trump in December that IS was defeated and US troops could go home.
“Heavy clashes are taking place currently between our forces and IS terrorists due to an attack by IS on one of our points in Deir al-Zor,” Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF’s Press Office, tweeted on Saturday.
“Everybody should be aware that IS is not defeated.”
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany