Trump Says ISIS Fighters Tied to Suicide Bombing of Americans Were Killed, a Day After They Were Reported Captured

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said U.S. forces killed the militants responsible for the January suicide bombing in Syria that claimed the lives of 19 people, among them four Americans. The remarks conflict with a Tuesday statement from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which said they were captured.

While delivering remarks to employees of the Lima Army Tank Plant at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, on Wednesday, Trump told the crowd that U.S. forces had located and killed the individuals responsible for January's suicide bombing—the deadliest day for American forces since they first deployed on the ground in 2015.

"I just got a little news that was given to me as I was walking up, U.S. forces in the last month have killed the terrorists responsible for the attack in Syria that killed four Americans, the Paris theater attack in 2015 and the U.S.S. Cole bombing in 2000. We killed them all, we killed them all."

The president's remarks conflict with a statement published to Twitter on Tuesday by Mustafa Bali, the head of the press office in northern Syria for the Syrian Democratic Forces.

"A group of suspects believed to be involved in January 16 Manbij bombing that killed several US and SDF servicemen was captured following technical surveillance by our forces," Bali wrote on Twitter. "The outcome of the ongoing investigation will be shared at a later time."

Bali did not give specifics on when the suspects were captured or how many are believed to be involved.

January's bombing killed U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon M. Kent; former Navy SEAL and Defense Intelligence Agency employee Scott A. Wirtz; and Ghadir Taher, a naturalized U.S. citizen working as a civilian interpreter, were killed in the attack, after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive when the American patrol was at the Palace of the Princes restaurant in the northern city of Manbij, an area controlled by a militia allied to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.

A Pentagon official with knowledge of the ongoing operations in Syria told Newsweek on Tuesday that five militants who were part of the cell that planned and executed the attack were captured roughly in late February. They also said the militant's roles in the bombing remain classified to protect ongoing operations. Reuters first reported the detentions on Tuesday.

There are no plans to extradite the suspects to the U.S. to stand trial, said the Defense Department source, indicating that the process could be complicated given the number of local civilians killed in the Manbij attack.

Contacted by Newsweek on Wednesday about the president's comments, Army Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner said he would have to review the transcript of the president's statement, but for now, the Pentagon stands by Tuesday's statement from Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson.

President Donald J. Trump speaks at the Joint Systems Manufacturer on March 20, 2019 in Lima, Ohio. Trump visited the northeastern Ohio defense manufacturing plant to discuss his successes in the economy, job growth, John McCain, and ISIS. Andrew Spear/Getty Images

"We are committed to bringing those responsible for planning and executing the Manbij terrorist attack on January 16, 2019, to justice," said Robertson in an email. "As a matter of policy, we don't discuss intelligence collection efforts."

A Pentagon official, who asked not to be named due to Defense Department regulations on contact with members of the press, said the Pentagon believed Trump misspoke when talking about U.S. forces killing the militants responsible for the suicide bombing.

Newsweek contacted the White House about Trump's remarks regarding the Islamic State militants but was referred to the National Security Council.

"We have captured or killed terrorists with ties to the attack in Manbij that killed four brave Americans. We will continue to hunt ISIS, al-Qa'ida, and any of their associates who threaten the United States," said a senior administration official in an email to Newsweek late Wednesday evening.

The Pentagon official reacting to the statement from the Trump administration said the militants killed have ties to those that planned and executed the Manbij attack in a "broad sense."

Trump also erred in his speech on Wednesday when he said U.S. forces had killed the individual thought to be the mastermind behind the planning and execution of the U.S.S. Cole bombing in 2000 that killed 17 U.S. Navy sailors and injured 39 others in the last month.

Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, a longtime al-Qaida operative and one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, was killed in early January, not February as the president indicated, in Yemen's Ma'rib Governorate.

This article was updated with a comment from the Trump administration responding to a Newsweek inquiry.