U.S. pa­trol troops clash with pro-Syr­ian group

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NATION & WORLD -


DA­M­AS­CUS — A Syr­ian was killed and an­other was wounded when gov­ern­ment sup­port­ers attacked Amer­i­can troops and tried to block their way as their con­voy drove through an army check­point in north­east­ern Syria, prompt­ing a rare clash, state me­dia and ac­tivists re­ported.

The Pen­tagon said its force came un­der fire, and that troops re­sponded in self-de­fense. It said the in­ci­dent was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

Syr­ian state me­dia said the dead man was a civil­ian and that he was among vil­lagers east of Qamishli who had gath­ered at the check­point and pelted the U.S. con­voy with rocks.

A video posted on state news agency SANA’s web­site showed an­gry men fir­ing small arms at a con­voy of sev­eral ar­mored ve­hi­cles fly­ing the U.S. flag. In one of the worst in­ci­dents of vi­o­lence against U.S. troops deployed in north­east­ern Syria, a small fire ap­pears to ig­nite on an ar­mored ve­hi­cle, ap­par­ently from fire­bombs lobbed at the con­voy.

U.S. sol­diers were seen stand­ing in the mid­dle of the melee, try­ing to dis­perse the crowd.

Other videos showed an­other ve­hi­cle stuck in the dirt, ap­par­ently hav­ing veered into a ditch, while an­other had a flat tire. In one video, a res­i­dent walked up to U.S. sol­diers at one of the ve­hi­cles, hold­ing a U.S. flag, scream­ing: “What do you want from our coun­try? What is your business here?” A sol­dier tells the shout­ing man to “back off.”

At that point, Amer­i­can troops fired live am­mu­ni­tion and smoke bombs at the res­i­dents, the re­ports said.

A U.S. mil­i­tary spokesman said coali­tion forces pa­trolling near Qamishli en­coun­tered a check­point oc­cu­pied by gov­ern­ment

• • •

THURS­DAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2020 forces who ig­nored a series of warn­ings by coali­tion troops to de-es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion.

Hun­dreds of U.S. troops are sta­tioned in north­east­ern Syria, work­ing with 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 Wednesday.

The clash marked a rare con­fronta­tion in­volv­ing U.S. and Syr­ian troops in the crowded re­gion where Rus­sian forces are also deployed. At one point dur­ing the in­ci­dent, U.S., Rus­sian and Syr­ian flags could be seen next to one an­other, reflecting the com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tion in north­east­ern Syria. Some re­ports said a Rus­sian con­voy ar­rived on the scene to defuse the ten­sion.

Asked about the in­ci­dent, U.S. Sec­re­tary of De­fense Mark Esper said in Brus­sels he was told there was an “al­ter­ca­tion,” with­out pro­vid­ing de­tails.

“As far as I know, to­day’s in­ci­dent did not in­volve the Rus­sians,” he said, who heav­ily sup­port the Da­m­as­cus gov­ern­ment mil­i­tar­ily.


Rus­sian, Syr­ian and other troops gath­ered around a U.S. mil­i­tary con­voy stuck in the vil­lage of Khir­bet Ammu, east of Qamishli, Syria, on Wednesday. The Pen­tagon said the Amer­i­cans acted in self-de­fense.

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