US troops have opened fire during a confrontation at a checkpoint in northeast Syria. They allegedly killed a civilian, local media report, after villagers blocked the path of a US military convoy, demanding that they turn back.
The altercation took place near the town of Qamishli in the north-eastern Al-Hasakah Province near the Turkish border, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said, citing their correspondent. A US armored convoy had stopped at a Syrian Army checkpoint on Wednesday morning. Hundreds of locals from two nearby villages reportedly tried to block the vehicles from going further, and the American soldiers responded by firing “smokes bombs” and live rounds, killing one civilian and wounding another.
The locals then damaged four US vehicles and the Americans had to call in reinforcements to “evacuate” their troops, SANA said. In a separate incident in the village of Bweir al-Bouassi outside Qamishli, another American convoy had to grind to to a halt because of a hail of stones, with some locals climbing on top of one vehicle and tearing down its US flag.
Journalist Babak Taghvaee published a video allegedly filmed east of Qamishli. The short clip appeared to show several men in civilian clothes swarming US armored personnel carriers and yelling at heavily armed servicemen. According to Taghvaee, the troops opened fire after locals threw stones and a Molotov cocktail at them, after which Russian military police arrived to quell the tensions. He did not mention any casualties on either side.
The spokesperson for the US-led military coalition in Syria and Iraq, Colonel Myles Caggins, meanwhile, provided his version of the events. In a short statement, he said that a US military patrol in Qamishli “came under small arms fire from unknown individuals” after it had encountered a checkpoint manned by the Syrian government army. The Americans fired back in self-defense, and the Coalition is currently investigating the incident, Caggins said, without mentioning any casualties.
Meanwhile, Turkish state agency Anadolu said, citing local sources, that the victim was allegedly a pro-government militia member.
The US troops have been stationed in mostly Kurdish-populated areas of Syria’s northeast, near its borders with Turkey and Iraq. Officials in Washington say that the soldiers continue to be stationed there to fight the remnants of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and to secure the oilfields.
The Syrian government and its ally Russia have repeatedly reminded the US that its military presence in Syria is entirely illegal; Washington was never authorized by Damascus to deploy troops there. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last November that the US’ attempts to control the oilfields are tantamount to “stealing” Syrian natural resources.
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