U.S. Clash in Syria Was the Fault of Americans Deviating From Their Route, Russian Military Claims

The Russian military has blamed American soldiers for Wednesday's deadly clash at a checkpoint in northeastern Syria, claiming that only the presence of Russian troops stopped further bloodshed.

An altercation broke out Wednesday after a U.S. convoy was stopped by a checkpoint manned by fighters loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the city of Qamishli.

Locals and armed men argued with the American troops before a firefight broke out. At one point, a bystander stole a U.S. flag from one of the armored vehicles and was filmed shouting at troops, "What do you want from our country? What is your business here?"

A Russian military patrol also arrived on the scene. Video of the incident showed a Russian vehicle and soldiers pulled up close behind the armored U.S. convoy, which was under fire from armed men who took cover behind a building just yards away.

A Russian military daily bulletin issued Thursday claimed that its troops prevented further violence. The statement, reported by The Moscow Times, claimed that the altercation erupted because the U.S. convoy "deviated from its route."

The statement also said, "Further escalation of the conflict was prevented thanks only to the efforts of Russian servicemen who arrived at the scene."

Newsweek has contacted the Coalition to request comment on the Russian assertion.

Colonel Myles Caggins, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led Coalition, said Wednesday that the Americans came under small arms fire and responded in kind after "a series of warnings and de-escalation attempts."

Caggins later added that "an adult male combatant" was killed by American fire. Caggins said the dead man was estimated to be aged 20 or above, though local reports and the Russian military claimed the casualty was a 14-year-old boy.

A U.S. soldier sustained a "minor superficial scratch" in the confrontation, Caggins said. Military vehicles were also damaged by small arms fire.

Wednesday's clash was the most serious in a series of stand-offs in northwestern Syria in recent weeks. Troops loyal to the U.S., Russia, Syria and Turkey all have a presence in the area and regularly come into contact while patrolling.

James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for Syria, has accused Russia of attempting to displace American influence in the area. Moscow is a staunch ally of Assad, who is seeking to reunify the war-torn country under his control. Both the Russian government and Assad have described American military presence in the country as illegal.

US military, Syria, Russia, convoy, Qamishli
This photo shows a U.S. military convoy on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Qamishli on February 12, 2020. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty