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U.S. troops injured in Russian vehicle collision in Syria, U.S. officials say

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. troops in Syria were wounded this week when a Russian military patrol slammed into their vehicle, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, as Washington condemned the incident as a violation of safety protocols agreed with Moscow.

Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said several U.S. troops suffered concussive symptoms following the incident.

While interactions between American and Russian forces are not rare, the incident highlights the risks of troops from both countries operating in close proximity in northern Syria and the potential for a rapid escalation in tensions.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said the incident took place on Aug. 25 near Dayrick, in northeast Syria.

“To de-escalate the situation, the coalition patrol departed the area,” he said. “The coalition and the United States do not seek escalation with any national military forces, but U.S. forces always retain the inherent right and obligation to defend themselves from hostile acts,” he added.

Videos on social media showed Russian military vehicles, backed by a pair of helicopters, driving dangerously close to U.S. armored vehicles. The origin of the videos was unclear.

The U.S. military does not generally comment on injuries. However, last month a paratrooper was killed during a vehicle rollover accident in eastern Syria.

The U.S. military said the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, but provided no details on what was discussed.

About 500 U.S forces remain in northern Syria after a sharp reduction in troops that were initially there to drive out Islamic State militants from all their strongholds in the country.

Some of the areas also have oil resources, something President Donald Trump has cited as a justification for keeping U.S. troops partnered with Kurdish allies in the region.

The injuries were first reported by Politico.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Grant McCool, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler