DAMASCUS -- A Syrian was killed and another wounded when government supporters attacked American troops and tried to block their way as their convoy drove through an army checkpoint in northeastern Syria, state media outlets and activists reported.
The U.S. military said its forces came under fire, and that troops responded in self-defense. It said an investigation of the incident was underway.
Syrian state-run media outlets said the man killed was a civilian and that he was among residents of a village east of the town of Qamishli who had gathered at the checkpoint and pelted the U.S. convoy with stones.
A video posted on state news agency SANA's website showed men firing small arms at a convoy of several armored vehicles flying the U.S. flag. Some residents pelted the convoy with stones, while another dumped a bucket of dirt on the back of one vehicle.Gallery: Syria
In one of the worst incidents of violence against U.S. troops deployed in northeastern Syria, a small fire appeared 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 conducting a patrol near Qamishli encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian government forces who ignored a series of warnings by coalition troops to de-escalate the situation. The patrol faced small-arms fire from unknown individuals, coalition spokesman Myles Caggins said, adding that coalition troops returned fire in self-defense.
"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, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in Brussels that 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.
In other violence in the country's northwest, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces continued their advance in Idlib and Aleppo provinces near the border with Turkey. They took full control of a strategic highway that runs through the rebel-held territory and links the capital to northern Syria. The M5 highway had been under opposition control for most of the war.
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 Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground, said it was not clear if the person killed was a civilian or a militia member. The Observatory also said a Russian convoy arrived on the scene to defuse the tension.
Information for this article was contributed by Robert Burns, Zeina Karam, Edith M. Lederer, Sarah El Deeb and Vladimir Isachenkov of The Associated Press.
A Section on 02/13/2020
Print Headline: Syrian killed in face-off with U.S. troops