Meanwhile, a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province on Thursday killed 14 ISIS militants, Afghan officials said Saturday. In Raqqa, all of the combatants were "removed from the city," a spokesman for the U.S-led coalition against ISIS told Reuters on Saturday. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated," YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters. "We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa," U.S. military spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon told Reuters in an emailed statement.
Combined Joint Task Force officials echoed these comments, saying that "the Coalition takes this threat seriously and has implemented increased force protection measures and improved UAV counter-measures to protect Coalition forces and our partners on the ground." They also stated ISIS drones will not dramatically impact the battlefield, but add that "the Coalition remains responsive to this emerging threat through both active and passive measures, and we continue to improve force protection measures for all our Coalition personnel and Iraqi and Syrian partner forces." So what does increased weaponized commercial drone activity overseas mean to the United States? The Federal Aviation Administration estimates small, hobbyist unmanned aircraft system purchases may grow from 1.9 million in 2016 to as many as 4.3 million by 2020.
A U.S. aircraft shot down an armed Iranian drone advancing on coalition forces in southern Syria on Tuesday, Fox News confirmed. The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle about 12:30 a.m. after it displayed hostile intent and advanced on Coalition forces. An U.S Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter flies during a certification of the arresting gear last May. The coalition has made it clear to all parties publicly and through the deconfliction line with Russian forces that the demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.
A U.S.-led coalition drone strike in Raqqa, Syria, killed three Islamic State fighters, two of whom helped facilitate the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday. The third fighter killed on December 4 was involved in a foiled suicide attack plot targeting Europe in 2015, U.S. officials said. A Belgian court had convicted him in absentia. "The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters. He said the fighters were involved in a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who was killed in a coalition airstrike last month.