U.S.-led coalition says troops returned fire in northeast Syria

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants said its troops opened fire on Wednesday at a checkpoint in northeast Syria after they came under small arms fire.

The coalition said in a statement the situation had calmed down and the patrol had returned to the base.

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

“In self-defense, coalition troops returned fire,” he said.

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

Earlier, Syrian and Turkish media said one person was killed in the shooting at the checkpoint and that U.S. warplanes had carried out at least one air strike subsequently. The coalition statement made no reference to any air strike.

Syria’s state news agency SANA said one civilian was killed and another wounded when U.S. forces opened fire on people after their vehicles were stopped at a checkpoint, in the village of Kherbat Amo, east of Qamishli.

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.

“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.

Reporting by Dominic Evans, Idrees Ali in Washington. Additional reporting by Suleiman al Khalidi in Amman, Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Bernadette Baum