A British SAS soldier who died fighting Islamic State in Syria was killed by friendly fire and not by an enemy roadside bomb, as previously claimed.

Sergeant Matt Tonroe, 33, originally from Manchester, died last year alongside US commando Master Sergeant Jonathan J Dunbar while on a joint operation with American special forces.

US defence chiefs originally blamed their deaths on an improvised explosive device (IED) in a statement released days after the incident in March 2018. However, a subsequent investigation into the blast in Manbij, northern Syria, concluded that Tonroe was killed by an explosive carried by a colleague.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said yesterday: “Sergeant Matt Tonroe died from blast injuries caused by an explosion during a military operation.

“It was initially believed that Sgt Tonroe was killed by enemy action, however subsequent investigation concluded that Sgt Tonroe was killed by the accidental detonation of explosives carried by coalition forces. Our thoughts continue to be with Sgt Tonroe’s family and friends.”

Tonroe, who joined the army in 2004, served in the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in Colchester on completion of his training, where he served as part of the Sniper Platoon. He later passed selection for the Special Air Services Regiment. In Syria he was embedded in Seal Team 6, the unit which killed Osama Bin Laden.

According to reports, Tonroe was on a mission to capture or kill high-value Isil personnel when he died. Five other people were injured in the explosion.

It is not known if the target of the mission was captured or killed.

Following the blast, Tonroe, Dunbar and five other seriously injured casualties were carried onto military vehicles and driven to the outskirts of Manbij, where a helicopter flew them to a US military hospital at a secret location. Both soldiers were declared dead on arrival.

Tributes paid to the soldier described him as “well-liked and capable” and a “consummate professional”.

“We mourn his loss dearly, are proud to have known him and will honour him by continuing this fight,” said his commanding officer, who can’t be identified.

Tonroe was happiest when “professionally tested on operations” according to the Ministry of Defence. He was deployed numerous times on operations to Afghanistan and the Middle East during his service.

Gavin Williamson, the former defence secretary, said Tonroe served his country with great distinction.

He is survived by his mother, Michelle, brother Alex and girlfriend Olivia.


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