US troops 'forced to flee Syrian town' after FSA rebel threats

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Video shows Free Syrian Army fighters threatening to 'slaughter' US special forces after they moved into al-Rai with Turkish troops

Men in US military uniforms in al-Rai, northern Syria (Twitter)
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Last update: 
Thursday 22 September 2016 13:40 UTC
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US special forces soldiers were reportedly forced to flee a town in northern Syria after Free Syrian Army fighters threatened to "slaughter" them for their "invasion", according to videos and reports posted on social media on Friday.

The US soldiers were working with Turkish forces as they advanced through al-Rai in preparation for an offensive against nearby al-Bab, which is controlled by the Islamic State group.

In the video, fighters from the FSA chant that US forces are "pigs," "crusaders" and "infidels". 

"Dogs, agents of America," one man can be heard to say in Arabic, while others chant: "They are crusaders and infidels, down with America, get out you pigs," and, "They are coming to Syria to occupy it."

A voice on a megaphone can be heard to say there will be a "slaughter". The US forces were reportedly forced to leave the town after the protests.

The video was posted on Twitter hours after pictures showing men in US military uniforms in al-Rai. Another video showed US soldiers in a column of armoured vehicles and Turkish tanks speeding out of al-Rai, which is known in Turkish as Cobanbey. 

A voice in the video can be heard saying in Arabic: "We won't accept any Americans participating alongside us." 

A senior rebel source told the Reuters news agency that "five or six" US soldiers were forced to withdraw towards the Turkish border after the protests. 

A monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, also reported the incident and said the US forces had left al-Rai, but were still on Syrian soil.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that initial reports appeared to confirm the incident.

US supporting Turkish incursion

The FSA is allied with Turkish forces and ostensibly supported by the US as a "moderate" rebel group fighting against Syrian government forces.

However, Friday's confrontation highlights the complex nature of the war in Syria.

The footage is the first time US soldiers have been seen supporting Turkish forces during operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched by Turkey late last month to liberate border areas from IS control and roll back advances by Kurdish YPG militias.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said: "We would call on our partner forces not to fly the American flag on their own. I would imagine that that would be communicated if indeed that's taken place in this instance."