Assyrian Christians and Kurds clash for first time as tensions rise in north-eastern Syria

Several people have been killed in a clash between Assyrian Christians and Kurds in north-eastern Syria, as tensions rise between the two groups.

One of the restaurants attacked in an Islamic State suicide bombing.Reuters

Fighting broke out at an Assyrian check-point in the city of Qamishli in the al-Hasakah province; an area divided and controlled in parts by ISIS, Kurds and Assyrian forces.

"The city of Qamishli is controlled by Assyrians, but surrounded by Kurdish fighters. The Assyrians were trying to set up checkpoints and were fired at by the Kurds," Afram Yakoub, the chairman of the Assyrian Federation of Sweden, told Al Jazeera.

The outbreak of violence was also confirmed by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as being because of the checkpoints, however the two sources have conflicting accounts of the casualties.

Yakoub said at least one Assyrian and eight Kurdish fighters were killed, while Taj Kordsh, a Kurd from the SDF, said "two Assyrian fighters were killed in the clashes and five others were injured."

He also said that a civilian had been killed.

This is the first known instance of a clash between Assyrians and Kurds over the duration of Syria's civil war, which began in 2011.

It comes less that a month after three separate attacks in Qamishli increased tensions in the area. The attacks, which targeted two Christian restaurants and killed 18 people, were claimed by ISIS.

The SDF is made up of at least 15 armed factions, including Christians and Arabs, and was founded in October 2015. It is mainly made up of fighters from the YPG and Free Syrian Army.