American troops were fired upon in northeastern Syria after civilians attempted to block them at a crossroads. They returned fire and at least one Syrian was killed and another wounded, Syrian state television reported.
U.S. military spokesman Myles Caggins said American-led coalition forces were conducting a patrol of eight vehicles near Qamishli and encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian militia forces. A tense standoff ensued as the militia along with Syrian civilians attempted to block the convoy from moving. Then, as the coalition troops warned the government troops to stand down, the U.S. troops came under small-arms fire from an unidentified group.
“In self-defense, coalition troops returned fire. The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation,” Caggins added.
The damaged U.S. vehicle. (Twitter).
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that both civilians and militia members blocked the convoy from continuing, while Difa el-Watani militia members fired their weapons into the air. The Americans unleashed smoke but as the situation heated up, the American troops fired, killing one person. The human rights organization said it wasn’t clear if the killed man was a civilian or a militia member. Then a Russian convoy arrived and the situation was diffused.
Another witness reported that it was the American troops who fired into the air. However, after the killing of the Syrian national, Syrians rained fire down on the U.S. vehicles. American aircraft then buzzed the village to warn the Syrian militia troops to allow the coalition troops to pass. Syrian militia troops then harrassed the reporters on the scene and seized a camera of one of them before leaving.
According to Syrian state-run news (SANA), the man who was killed was a civilian. He was among civilians in the village of Khirbet Ammu who began pelting the U.S. convoy with stones and trying to tear down a U.S. flag that was perched on one of the vehicles, as well as to prevent the troops from continuing on. At that point, U.S. troops fired with live ammunition at the people and popped smoke to drive them back. No U.S. casualties were reported but four vehicles were damaged.
A cellphone video, showing an American armored vehicle being blocked by a civilian vehicle, was broadcasted by Syrian state-run Al-Ikhbariya television.
The vehicle had to be towed from the scene of the firefight (Twitter).
Hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, working with their local partners from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to fight against the Islamic State fighters in the region. The U.S. and the SDF routinely carry out patrols in northeastern Syria, but it isn’t clear why the coalition and the militia were in such close contact.
Tensions have been high with Syrian, Russian, and Turkish troops coming into contact with one another in the northwestern part of the country. 12 Turkish soldiers have been killed in recent clashes and Turkey responded with attacks on Syrian positions, killing 50 Syrian government troops.
Last October, Delta Force conducted a hairy raid in Syria that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.