The United States has shot down an armed Turkish drone operating near its troops in Syria, the Pentagon said.
It was the first time Washington has brought down an aircraft of NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish drones had been seen carrying out airstrikes in Hasakah in Syria on Thursday morning in a so-called American “restricted operating zone” around 1km away from US troops, Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder said.
Later a Turkish drone reentered the restricted area “on a heading toward where US forces were located”.
The drone came within less than 500m of US troops and was deemed a threat and shot down by F-16 aircraft.
Brig Gen Ryder called it a “regrettable incident” and said US troops were forced to go to bunkers for safety when Turkey bombed targets nearby.
No US soldiers were injured.
US defence secretary Lloyd Austin had a “fruitful” call with his Turkish counterpart after the incident, he added.
“The decision was made out of due diligence and the inherent right of self-defence to take appropriate action to protect US forces,” Brig Gen Ryder said, adding: “We have no indication that Turkey was intentionally targeting US forces.”
The US and Turkish militaries, which are NATO allies, typically work in close coordination in conducting air manoeuvres, but American troops also work closely with Kurdish forces to counter Islamic State insurgents in the region.
The US has around 900 troops in Syria conducting missions to counter Islamic State militants.
Tensions have flared between the two countries before, with US troops in northern Syria coming under artillery fire from Turkish positions in 2019.
US support for Kurdish forces in northern Syria has long caused tensions with Ankara, which views them as a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the group which claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in the capital last weekend.
It comes after Turkey carried out airstrikes in northern Iraq, destroying 20 targets belonging to the PKK.