Turkey ramps up fight against Kur­dish fight­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - The As­so­ci­ated Press

Turkey es­ca­lated its of­fen­sive Thurs­day against Kur­dish fight­ers in north­ern Syria, pound­ing them with airstrikes and ar­tillery, and com­pli­cat­ing the bat­tle against the Is­lamic State group by Ankara and Wash­ing­ton, both NATO al­lies.

In the fight for Aleppo, mean­while, the Syr­ian mil­i­tary used a lull in vi­o­lence to urge res­i­dents and rebels to evac­u­ate the be­sieged op­po­si­tion-held part of the city.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said as many as 200 mem­bers of the Kur­dish-led forces were killed in Syria’s Aleppo prov­ince by the Turk­ish bomb­ing and shelling.

A se­nior com­man­der with the main Syria Kur­dish mili­tia con­firmed the Turk­ish at­tack on his forces north of Aleppo but dis­puted the ca­su­alty toll, say­ing that no more than 10 fight­ers were killed.

Like in Iraq, where Kur­dish fight­ers are at the fore­front of the of­fen­sive to re­take the city of Mo­sul from the Is­lamic State group, Kur­dish forces in Syria also have been bat­tling IS mil­i­tants and made sig­nif­i­cant ter­ri­to­rial gains in Aleppo prov­ince. That has dis­mayed Turkey, which is deal­ing with a home­grown Kur­dish in­sur­gency and try­ing to pre­vent an ex­pan­sion of Kur­dish in­flu­ence in Syria.

“We will not back down,” se­nior Kur­dish com­man­der Mah­moud Barkhadan of the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units told The As­so­ci­ated Press by tele­phone from the re­gion.

“We are fight­ing Daesh. Why are they strik­ing at us?” he asked, us­ing the Ara­bic acro­nym for IS.

Barkhadan ac­cused Turkey of aid­ing IS mil­i­tants by turn­ing the fight into a Turk­ish-Kur­dish bat­tle.

Turk­ish ar­tillery also hit near Afrin, a Kur­dish en­clave in north­west­ern Syria, he said, adding that his forces have not re­treated but that Turkey’s ac­tions al­lowed IS fight­ers to wage a coun­terof­fen­sive.

More than 10 fight­ers were killed and 20 wounded in over 30 aerial at­tacks that be­gan Wed­nes­day night, he said.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said at least 14 Kur­dish fight­ers were killed and four were miss­ing.

Anadolu, quot­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, re­ported the raids were car­ried out late Wed­nes­day night on 18 tar­gets in the Maar­raat Umm Hawsh re­gion in north­ern Syria. Be­tween 160 and 200 mili­tia fight­ers were killed, it said. The tar­gets struck ar­eas that Syr­ian Kur­dish forces re­cently took over as they pressed a cam­paign to drive IS mil­i­tants from ar­eas north of Aleppo.

The Syr­ian Kur­dish forces have been a source of ten­sion be­tween Turkey and the United States. The U.S. con­sid­ers the mili­tia group — the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units, known as the YPG — to be the most ef­fec­tive force against the IS group in Syria. Turkey calls it an ex­ten­sion of its own out­lawed Kur­dish mil­i­tants who have car­ried out deadly at­tacks in Turkey and con­sid­ers it a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

A U.S. de­fense of­fi­cial in Wash­ing­ton said the Syr­ian Kur­dish fight­ers tar­geted by Turk­ish airstrikes Wed­nes­day are not among the Kur­dish groups that U.S. forces are ad­vis­ing and as­sist­ing, so there were no U.S. troops with those Kurds when they came un­der at­tack.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.