U.S. troops clash with villagers in Syria, teenager killed

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February 14, 2020

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By Countercurrents Collective

Media reports said: A Syrian was killed and another was wounded when villagers attacked U.S. troops and tried to block their way as their convoy drove through an army checkpoint in northeastern Syria. The incident prompted a rare clash.

Another report said: A Syrian teenager was killed while another man was injured during the altercation between U.S. troops and locals.

The altercation between Syrian villagers and U.S. troops drew in a large group of local residents and at one point, the U.S. troops opened fire on them, killing a 14-year–old boy and injuring another person.

Russian military police arrived at the scene and were able to quell the tensions before they could have spiraled into a major confrontation.

“Only thanks to the efforts of the Russian servicemen who arrived at the scene of the incident, it was possible to prevent a further escalation of the conflict with local residents,” the Russian military said.

Footage has emerged of U.S. troops getting involved in a heated exchange and a shootout with angry locals. A Russian military convoy then moved to de-escalate the situation.

Earlier, Syrian and Turkish media said U.S. warplanes had carried out at least one air strike subsequently. The coalition statement made no reference to any air strike.

Syrian state news agency SANA said the shooting was followed by an air strike on the village in rural Qamishli, near the border with Turkey.

Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu agency said there were two air strikes.

A large group of civilians tried to block the convoy from advancing any further.

The U.S. military said its force came under fire, and that troops responded in self-defense. It said an investigation of the incident was underway.

SANA said: Residents of a village had gathered at the checkpoint and pelted the U.S. convoy with stones.

A video posted on SANA’s website showed angry men firing small arms at a convoy of several armored U.S. vehicles flying the U.S. flag. Some residents pelted the convoy with stones, while another dumped a bucket full of dirt on the back of one vehicle.

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 fire bombs 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.

Video footage show people in civilian clothing – as well as in military uniforms – fire their Kalashnikovs in the direction of the U.S. armored vehicles. It remains unclear who opened fire first, as each side blamed the other for the shooting.

“What are nine armored vehicles doing in a peaceful village? They were confronted by the locals,” said Abdul Salah Bakri, a resident of the village, in a voice recording sent on an internet messaging application.

Residents said a Russian patrol from a contingent in Qamishli airport was sent to the village, which lies in an area in northeast Syria where Russian, U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and the Syrian army all have a presence.

The clash marked a rare confrontation involving U.S. and Syrian troops in the crowded region where Russian forces are also deployed and was certain to escalate tensions.

At one point during the incident, U.S., Russian and Syrian flags could be seen next to each other, reflecting the complicated terrain in northeastern Syria. Some reports said a Russian convoy arrived on the scene to defuse the tension.

Hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed in northeastern Syria. The U.S. carries out patrols in the area, but it was not immediately clear why the convoy drove into a government-controlled area Wednesday.

A U.S. military spokesperson said coalition forces conducting a patrol near Qamishli encountered a checkpoint occupied by Syrian government forces who ignored a series of warnings by coalition troops to de-escalate the situation. The patrol came under small-arms fire from unknown individuals, coalition spokesperson Myles Caggins said, adding that coalition troops returned fire in self-defense.

He said one U.S. soldier had “a minor superficial scratch while operating their equipment” and was back at work.

“The situation was de-escalated and is under investigation,” he said 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.

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.

The Syrian war, now in its ninth year, has pulled in international players including the U.S., Russia and Turkey. Russia supports Syria government, while Turkey is the rebels’ main backer.

13 February 2020

Source: countercurrents.org

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