Syria: US troops open fire on locals

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
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AP

Russian, Syrian and others gather next to an American military convoy stuck in the village of Khirbet Ammu, east of Qamishli city, Syria, Wednesday.

DAMASCUS (AP) — A Syrian was killed and another was wounded in a rare clash Wednesday between American troops and a group of government supporters who tried to block a U.S. convoy driving through a village in northeastern Syria, state media and activists reported.

The state-run media said the killed man was a civilian. He was among residents of a village east of the town of Qamishli who had gathered at an army checkpoint, pelting the U.S. convoy with stones and taking down a U.S. flag from one of the vehicles. At that point, American troops fired with live ammunition and smoke bombs at the residents, the reports said.

A U.S. military spokesman said coalition forces conducting a patrol near Qamishli encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian government forces. After coalition troops issued a series of warnings in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, the patrol came under small-arms fire from unknown individuals, coalition spokesman Myles Caggins said. 

“In self-defense, coalition troops returned fire. The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation,” he added in a statement. 

Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, traveling with the U.S. defense secretary in Brussels, said no Americans were killed in the incident.

Hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, working with their local partners from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to fight against the Islamic State group. The U.S. carries out patrols in northeastern Syria, but it was not immediately clear why the convoy drove into a government-controlled area. 

The incident marks a rare confrontation involving U.S. and Syrian troops in the crowded region where Russian forces are also deployed — and is certain to further escalate tensions. 

State-run Al-Ikhbariya TV aired a cellphone video showing an armored vehicle flying a U.S. flag standing on a rural road while a car appeared to be blocking its way.

Locals are seen walking past the U.S. armored vehicle, with at least two soldiers inside, one of whom steps down as civilians approach. One civilian is seen tearing a U.S. flag as he approaches the soldier.

The TV said protests spread, preventing reinforcements from coming to help the U.S. convoy. The report said the wounded civilian and was being treated at the Qamishli hospital. 

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