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Saturday, Dec 09, 2023

Twenty-three US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries in Syria

Twenty-three US troops suffered traumatic brain injuries in Syria

Twenty-three US troops in Syria suffered traumatic brain injuries during two attacks in March by Iran-backed militants, the US Central Command, which oversees US forces in the Middle East, has said.
“We have identified 11 additional cases of mild Traumatic Brain Injury from the March 23rd and 24th attacks in eastern Syria,” it said in a statement. “Twenty-three of those wounded and assessed as mTBI cases. Our medical teams continue to assess and evaluate our troops for indications of mTBI.”

Twenty-five US troops were wounded as a result of the strikes and counter-strikes in Syria, which also killed an American contractor and injured another.

The Pentagon estimated eight militants were killed during retaliatory US air strikes against two Iran-linked facilities in Syria.

It is not the first time US troops in the region have been diagnosed with brain injuries from attacks.

In 2020, more than 100 US troops were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries stemming from a missile attack by Iran against a base in Iraq.

Separately, a US citizen who says he was tortured in Syrian custody has filed a lawsuit against President Bashar Assad’s government in Washington, seeking accountability at a time that Damascus is reconciling in the region.

Obada Mzaik, who was born in Ohio and also holds Syrian citizenship, said he was hoping to see family when he was detained on arrival at the Damascus airport in January 2012, nearly a year into the brutal civil war.

In a lawsuit filed in a federal court in Washington, Mzaik said he was taken to a basement cell that held around 10 other people, including a 13-year-old boy who said he had been tortured for more than 80 days.

Mzaik, who had been a student in Syria when protests broke out against Assad, was “brutally and systematically beaten, whipped and threatened with electrocution,” the lawsuit said.

“He was held in inhumane detention conditions and forced to witness other detainees being tortured, including one of his relatives,” it said.

Mzaik alleged that interrogators from the Air Force Intelligence Directorate “inflicted severe physical and mental pain” as they sought information on his friends, contacts and interactions with the US government and to “punish him for perceived anti-regime activities.”

He was released within a month after his family paid bribes through an intermediary, the lawsuit said. He was then treated by doctors for more than a month before he headed to Jordan and then the United States, it said.

Mzaik is seeking unspecified payment as damages from the Syrian government under a US law that says that foreign governments designated as state sponsors of terrorism are exempt from immunity.

The lawsuit was filed in January but unsealed this week. The court documents showed that the Czech Embassy in Damascus, which represents US interests in the country, formally informed the government of the lawsuit.

While it remains highly unlikely that Assad would pay any damages awarded in a court case, the United States has previously seized and allocated Iranian funds as damages, drawing legal challenges from Tehran’s clerical state.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad will visit Algeria, Algerian state radio reported late on Friday.

The Algerian foreign minister, Ahmed Ataf, will receive the visiting minister, state radio said.

It is expected that Mekdad will also visit Tunis early next week.

Syria and Tunisia agreed on Wednesday to reopen their respective embassies.
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