U.S. troops clash with Syrian government forces

A U.S.-led patrol opened fire in self-defence on Wednesday after a confrontation with Syrian government troops in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli, in a rare encounter between American and Syrian forces, the U.S. military said.

While conducting a patrol, the U.S. troops encountered a checkpoint occupied by Syrian government forces, the Wall Street Journal quoted Col. Myles Caggins II, a U.S. military spokesman, as saying.

“After coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small-arms fire from unknown individuals,” Caggins said. “In self-defence, coalition troops returned fire.”

The situation de-escalated and the coalition soldiers returned to their base after the confrontation, the Pentagon said. 

Syrian state media and activists reported that one Syrian was killed and another wounded during the encounter, ABC news said

The killed man was a civilian from a village in east Qamishli and was among those who had gathered at the army checkpoint, pelting the U.S. convoy with stones and taking down a U.S. flag from one of the vehicles, Syria’s state-run media said.

The number of U.S. troops in Syria declined to some 600 after the U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a withdrawal in October ahead of a Turkish incursion into northeast Syria to clear the area of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of U.S.-led coalition forces fighting against Islamic State.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades. The remaining U.S. troops in Syria are mainly working to guard Kurdish-controlled oil fields.