At about 9:20 a.m. Syrian time, U.S. and SDF forces, conducting a routine anti ISIS security patrol near Tal Al-Zahab, Syria, encountered a checkpoint occupied by pro-Syrian regime forces, U.S. defense officials tell Military Times.
“After receiving safe passage from pro-regime forces, the patrol came under small arms fire from individuals in the vicinity of the checkpoint, according to a media release from the Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve, the headquarters overseeing anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria. “Coalition forces returned fire in self-defense. The Coalition did not conduct an airstrike. No Coalition casualties occurred. The Coalition patrol returned to base. The incident is under investigation.”
Army Col. Myles Caggins III, a coalition spokesman, and Army Maj. John Rigsbee, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, confirmed to Military Times that U.S. troops were involved in the incident. Caggins told Military Times that there were U.S. helicopters in the area, but “did not shoot at the checkpoint or anywhere else.”
The coalition announcement contradicts earlier reports by Syrian state media and an opposition war monitoring group, who reported that a U.S. helicopter gunship on Monday attacked a Syrian army checkpoint in the country’s northeast, killing one soldier and wounding two others.
According to the reports, the attack came after the Syrian army prevented an American convoy from passing through.
Tensions have been rising in northeast Syria between government forces and U.S. troops in recent months. In several instances, Syrian troops prevented U.S. forces from entering several areas in the region.
Syrian state TV said the helicopter attack took place near the town of Qamishli.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave no breakdown of the casualties but said that before the strike, an argument broke out between the Syrian and U.S. troops.
Hundreds of U.S. troops are stationed in northeastern Syria, working with their local partners from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to fight against the Islamic State group.
This report contains information from the Associated Press.
This is a fluid situation. Stay with Military Times for updates.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.