A US jet operating in Syria destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank near Al Tabiyeh, Syria, on Saturday, a Pentagon representative confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday.
“The tank had been maneuvering with coordinated indirect fire on a defensive position occupied by Syrian Democratic Forces and Coalition advisers,” US Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said, adding that the SDF’s “position was within effective range of the hostile weapons systems.”
The US has been training, equipping, and backing the SDF rebels in Syria’s civil war for years as Russia has provided similar assistance to forces loyal to the Syrian government in close proximity.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson first reported the news of the tank’s destruction and said three crew members were killed, though their identities and affiliations were unclear. Tomlinson said the tank was destroyed after “pro-regime forces” fired on US special operations troops near the location where 500 pro-government forces attacked a headquarters used by SDF and US troops last week.
The US responded to that attack last Wednesday with a furious barrage of air and artillery strikes and reported killing 100 pro-government troops, but sources told Bloomberg on Saturday that as many as 200 or 300 Russian mercenaries were killed in the attack.
Rankine-Galloway said no US or Syrian rebel forces were killed or hurt in the tank attack, and the Pentagon reported only one SDF member wounded after the attack on Wednesday.
The US maintains regular contact with the Russian military and has established hotlines to ensure the forces don’t come in contact, but reports suggest an increasing presence of Russian contractors in Syria.
The T-72 battle tank was a 1970s Soviet-era design that has seen heavy upgrades and use in the Syrian theater. The Pentagon reported that T-72s took part in the attack on the SDF headquarters on Wednesday.