US forces clash with locals at Syrian regime checkpoint in Qamishli
U.S. forces on Wednesday clashed with civilians near Qamishli in northeast Syria near the Turkish border following a confrontation over an American convoy patrol.
The confrontation occurred at a pro-Syrian government National Defense Forces militia checkpoint in Khirbat Amo, Dirbat, east of Qamishli airport on the southern outskirts of the city, the Rojava Information Center said.
U.S. military personnel clashed with locals and shots were fired, according to RIC researcher Thomas McClure, who said a U.S. airstrike was visible from the group’s office.
“On Feb. 12, Coalition forces, conducting a patrol near Qamishli, Syria, encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian regime forces. After Coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small arms fire from unknown individuals. In self-defense, Coalition troops returned fire. The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation. The Coalition patrol returned to base,” said Colonel Myles B. Caggins III, Coalition military spokesperson.
Caggins told The Defense Post there was no airstrike.
It was unclear whether the confrontation was between U.S. military personnel and the militia members, civilian protesters, or a mix of both. Russian forces later arrived at the scene to mediate, according to other reports.
Video posted to social media appeared to show at least four U.S. armored vehicles stopped on a road with military personnel on foot. A second video showed armored vehicles with Russian and Syrian flags.
One injured person in a Syrian Arab Army uniform was taken to a nearby hospital, McClure said, while Syrian state media SANA reported that a civilian was killed and another injured in the confrontation.
Residents attacked the convoy after U.S. soldiers opened fire on civilians, according to the SANA report, which has not been verified.
Update, February 13: On Thursday, Caggins tweeted that US troops killed a man in the melee.
“Despite US troops de-escalation efforts, local militia members attacked US troops w/ small arms weapons; @CJTFOIR have the right to self-defense and fired back at armed aggressors killing an adult male combatant (20+ y/o),” he said.
UPDATE (Feb. 12/Qamishli): Despite US troops de-escalation efforts, local militia members attacked US troops w/ small arms weapons; @CJTFOIR have the right to self-defense and fired back at armed aggressors killing an adult male combatant (20+ y/o). VIDEO: @JamesAALongman https://t.co/iP6py3OXSY
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) February 13, 2020
Later video from the SDF-linked North Press Agency showed a damaged U.S. vehicle being towed through a village.
The incident threatens to increase tensions between U.S. and Russian forces that back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army in already congested areas of northeast Syria.
Russian forces have patrolled the surrounding area since October when Turkey and its Syrian rebel proxies launched an incursion into parts of SDF-held territory to oust the force from the border region.
Russia has occupied the Qamishli airport since mid-November.
A small number of U.S. troops remain in the country after President Donald Trump said he would withdraw the majority of forces from Syria. Trump later reversed course and said he would leave a small number to protect critical oil fields and prevent them from falling into the hands of the regime or Iran, but American troops still remain in areas held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeast.
Security control of Qamishli, the de facto capital of the self-declared autonomous region of North and East Syria, is split between the SDF and Syrian government.