ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A US official confirmed coalition forces exchanged fire with armed groups on October 15 near Manbij as suspicions rise that they were Turkish-backed rebel factions.
“They [coalitions forces] received gunfire from undisclosed persons and returned fire, and it ended quickly, skirmish at best,” Army Colonel Sean Ryan, Spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), told Kurdistan 24.
“But we don’t know who fired and it was during a US-MMC [Manbij Military Council] patrol,” he added.
Syrian Kurdish journalist Hosheng Hesen posted a video on his Twitter account that reportedly showed the clashes between US troops in Manbij and armed rebel factions backed by Turkey.
“US troops stationed in Manbij clash with the Turkish-backed armed factions. On the 15th of this month, the armed Turkish-backed factions targeted the village of Bughaz in Manbij,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Prompting the US troops there to respond to the fire sources and enter into clashes with the attacking factions,” he added.
Training for joint US-Turkish patrols around the Syrian city of Manbij has begun, Ryan told Pentagon reporters on October 16.
However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated threats at the US over the Syrian city of Manbij, and that he was prepared to attack Manbij “to eliminate terrorists” if the US was “unwilling to do so,” as he was cited as saying on Wednesday.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, however, in an interview with Kurdistan 24, dismissed the harsh language as “empty threats.”
Thus, as Erdemir suggested to Kurdistan 24, another important reason for Erdogan’s threat over Manbij is that he “is trying to use the crisis” for “leverage in bilateral relations.”
“US-Turkish relations are going through a thawing period,” Erdemir explained, and “I do not expect Erdogan to risk the current process by unilateral action in Manbij.”
Editing by Nadia Riva