At least 6 soldiers with brain injuries after deadly Iran-backed attacks in Syria

Six US soldiers have so far been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries from attacks by Iranian-backed militants in Syria earlier this month that killed an American contractor, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The diagnoses came amid ongoing medical evaluations by American personnel at the two sites in northeast Syria that were targeted by an Iranian-made drone and militant missiles, and more TBI cases are possible, said Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, spokesman for the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered airstrikes in retaliation which killed eight militants, according to the Pentagon’s latest assessment.

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The attacks are part of escalating fighting with Iran as its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has supported attacks by militant groups on the roughly 900 US troops and an unknown number of contractors who remain in Syria to counter the Islamic State terrorist group.

“Again, we do not seek conflict with Iran, but we will always protect our people,” Ryder told reporters during a briefing Thursday.

It’s unclear how many US personnel may have been exposed to blasts and are at risk of brain injuries from the attacks.

“These additional injuries were identified during the post-attack medical examination,” Ryder said. “These will continue as standard procedures. So there’s always a chance there could be more, but that’s where we are.”

An Iranian-made drone attacked a base housing US personnel in Hasakah, Syria, on March 23, killing the contractor and wounding six, including soldiers. As of Thursday, all of the victims had either been treated and discharged or were in stable condition and still receiving medical attention.

The base’s air defense system was not fully operational and failed to stop the drone, although forces were on high alert after 78 Iran-backed strikes in the region over the past two years, the New York Times first reported last week. The Pentagon declined to comment on reports that the defense system had failed.

“One soldier was medically evacuated to Landstuhl [Regional Medical Center in Germany] to receive treatment, and two US service members and [a] US contractors are receiving medical treatment in Iraq,” Ryder said.

A serviceman injured in another Iran-backed missile attack on Syria’s Green Village outpost on March 24 was in stable condition and receiving medical treatment in Iraq.

After the attack on 23 air force F-15E Strike Eagle Warplanes immediately attacked IRGC sites in the area. “This was another in a series of attacks on our troops and partner forces,” Gen. Erik Kurilla, chief of US Central Command, said in a statement at the time.

The retaliatory attack was followed by more militant rocket attacks on facilities housing Americans, raising concerns of an escalation with Iran seeking influence in Syria and neighboring Iraq to counter the US

President Joe Biden said the US would “act vigorously” to protect Americans abroad, but stressed that it does not seek conflict with Iran when asked about the strikes during a visit to Canada last week.

In January 2020, Iran hit Al Asad airbase in Iraq with 15 ballistic missiles and the US initially denied any injuries occurred. Former President Donald Trump, who first announced there were no injuries, then said some military members had reported “headaches.”

Finally, the Pentagon said 109 service members had been diagnosed with SHT. The incident led to a long struggle for some troops including national guard members to receive recognition for their injuries. Some took more than two years finally get hers purple hearts.

– Travis Tritten can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Travis_Tritten.

Related: Number of troops diagnosed with TBI after Iran missile attack rises to 109

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