The 22 soldiers who were injured in a helicopter accident in northeastern Syria on Sunday were part of the Army’s highly secretive Delta Force commando unit, which has previously carried out kill-or-capture raids against Islamic State militants in that part of the country, three senior military officials said on Tuesday.
The Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East and South Asia, said in a brief statement on Monday night that “a helicopter mishap” in northeastern Syria had left nearly two dozen service members with injuries.
The statement said that 10 of the soldiers had been evacuated to hospitals outside the region. The command did not say what the commandos were doing when the incident happened or what might have caused the accident, saying only that no enemy fire had been reported and that an inquiry was underway.
“We have nothing additional to provide pending the outcome of the investigation,” Maj. John Moore, a spokesman for the Central Command, said in an email on Tuesday.
But the three military officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing inquiry, said on Tuesday that an MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying the commandos had gone down in apparently good weather and without taking hostile fire. It was unclear whether the aircraft had suffered mechanical failure, pilot error or some other problem, the officials said.
The 10 most seriously injured soldiers were flown to an American medical hospital in Germany, but none of their injuries were life-threatening, the officials said.
More than 900 U.S. troops and several hundred more contractors are based in Syria. The troops work with Kurdish fighters to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State, which was defeated as a self-declared caliphate in 2019, after five years of wreaking havoc across Iraq and Syria.
In March, a U.S. contractor was killed and at least six other Americans were injured when Iranian-backed militias launched a volley of rocket and drone attacks against coalition bases.