Islamic State militants launched two suicide attacks on US-backed Syrian rebels near the border with Iraq and Jordan, leaving at least 12 dead in the fighting and many wounded, rebel sources said on Sunday.
They said eight Islamic State fighters and four of their own men died.
An attack at midnight on a heavily defended base near the al Tanf border crossing involved at least one explosive-laden vehicle that rammed an entrance to the base. At least two US-backed rebels were killed and scores wounded, a rebel source said.
The militants also staged a suicide attack on a convoy of rebel fighters from the Western-backed Osoud al Sharqiya rebel group, who had sent reinforcements from their outpost near the Rukban refugee camp further south west. Two of the fighters in the convoy were killed in the ambush.
Islamic State “staged a suicide attack and there were clashes inside Tanf. Two were killed and several injured. They also attacked our convoy but it’s over and matters are under control,” said a senior rebel source from Osoud al Sharqiya who requested anonymity.
Islamic State-affiliated Amaq news agency said two suicide attacks were conducted by its fighters near Tanf on “positions of Syrian groups supported by America.” It gave no details.
US-led coalition planes were involved in the operation to track down the militants who staged the hit-and-run attack and apparently fled, a rebel commander involved in the operation said.
A statement released by Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led anti-ISIS coalition claimed that coalition forces and partnered Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) forces “repelled an ISIS attack targeting a partnered military base in southern Syria 8 April.”
“Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple Coalition airstrikes,” the statement said.
The Pentagon estimated between 20 and 30 Islamic State fighters, some wearing suicide vests, were involved in the ground assault.
Both Tanf and Rukban are near the joint Syria-Iraq-Jordan border. Osoud al Sharqiya, one of the main groups in that area fighting Islamic State, is part of the Free Syrian Army of rebels financed and equipped by a Western coalition.