US-Led Coalition Says Soldiers Returned Fire in Northeast Syria

February 12, 2020 Updated: February 12, 2020
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The U.S.-led coalition to fight ISIS terrorists said that its troops fired shots in northeastern Syria after they came under fire from unknown assailants, according to a statement on Tuesday.

“After coalition troops issued a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts, the patrol came under small arms fire from unknown individuals” in Qamishli, said Colonel Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the coalition, in a statement.

Out of self-defense, the patrol returned fire and the situation was de-escalated, Caggins added. He said the incident is now under investigation as the patrol returned to its base.

One U.S. soldier suffered a “superficial scratch” while operating equipment during the incident, he said. The soldier has since returned to duty, the spokesman said.

Syrian and Turkish media claimed one person was killed in the shooting at the checkpoint and that U.S. warplanes had subsequently carried out at least one airstrike.

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, Reuters reported.

Caggins’ statement made no reference to airstrikes.

Syrian state-run media SANA said a civilian was killed in the incident and blamed U.S. forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said that in the incident, “regime loyalists’ gunmen fired in the air, and then U.S. patrol fired smoke bombs. The incident has evolved dramatically where U.S. forces opened fire, killing a person.” It added that it’s not clear if the person is a militia member or a civilian.

It comes after the U.S. Department of Defense announced that 109 American troops were diagnosed with mild brain injuries following the Iranian missile strike on Iraqi bases last month. The Pentagon said in a statement this week that 45 new cases had been confirmed since the agency issued its previous report about a week ago.

“The Defense Department is steadfast in its efforts to deliver programs and services intended to lead to the best possible outcomes for our service members. We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty. We must continue to address physical and mental health together,” Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said.

Reuters contributed to this report.