BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
The U.S. military says its first batch of mechanized armored vehicles have arrived in southeast Syria, where they are to take part in securing oil fields and fighting remnants of the Islamic State group.
U.S.-led Coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins said the first batch of Bradley armored infantry carriers have arrived Thursday in Deir el-Zour Province. The province is home to some of Syria’s largest oil fields. It is also where IS militants continue to wage an insurgency and where they lost their last territory in March.
Caggins said the mechanized forces — being deployed for the first time in Syria— provides infantry with maneuverability and firepower. He said the deployment is “de-conflicted” with other forces operating in the region.
U.S. troops have begun withdrawing from northern Syria to reposition in the Deir el-Zour region, he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the troop withdrawal from the north ahead of a Turkish military offensive there earlier this month. Turkey is pushing to have Kurdish fighters moved away from its borders.
New video shows U.S. armored vehicles patrolling near oil facilities in an area of northern Syria that saw recent heavy fighting between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces, and from which American troops had withdrawn.
The video, aired by Kurdistan 24, an Iraqi Kurdish network, showed what appeared to be U.S. special operations forces visiting oil facilities east of the city of Qamishli on Thursday.
A witness says aircraft overhead provided cover as the patrol visited six small oil facilities. The witness spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
President Donald Trump withdrew U.S. forces from the border area ahead of a Turkish invasion this month, abandoning Syrian Kurdish fighters the U.S. had partnered with against the Islamic State group.
Trump said he wanted out of America’s “endless wars” but would leave U.S. troops in the region to secure oil facilities.
Under a cease-fire agreement, Syrian, Turkish and Russian forces are deploying in different parts of the border region. The presence of U.S. forces near the border would put them in close proximity to all three.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Zachary Boyer, a military spokesman, says U.S. forces are transiting the area as part of the withdrawal, adding that all operations are “de-conflicted with other forces operating in the region.”
— Sarah El Deeb in Beirut
Turkey’s defense minister says 18 Syrian government soldiers have been captured during its military operations in northeast Syria, including two who are wounded.
Hulusi Akar, defense minister, said during a visit to Turkish border units, that Ankara was in talks with Russia to hand over the captured soldiers. His comments were carried on the official ministry website Thursday. It was not clear when the soldiers were captured but the minister said they were taken southwest of the town of Ras al-Ayn, which has been at the center of a Turkish military invasion of northeastern Syria.
Turkey halted its military operation into Syria through two separate cease-fires brokered by the U.S. and Russia. Under the deal, Kurdish fighters would withdraw to 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the Turkish border and Syrian government forces would take positions along the borders.
A war monitor says a car bomb in a vegetable market in a northern region of Syria held by Turkish-led forces has killed at least five people and wounded 10.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the blast happened Wednesday in Afrin, a town captured from Syrian Kurdish fighters early last year. The area is controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian fighters and has seen sporadic violence since then.
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency says nine people were killed and 20 wounded in the attack.
Turkey launched another cross-border operation earlier this month, invading northeastern Syria to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters who had partnered with U.S. forces against the Islamic State group.
Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as an extension of the decades-long Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey.