Turkey blames Kurdish militia as blast kills 12 in border town
A car bomb killed more than a dozen people and injured 30 in a market of a Syrian border town.
Turkish-backed forces seized Tel Abyad last month, prompting Ankara to blame the Kurdish YPG militia for the blast.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-Turkey fighters and civilians were among the dead and injured in town. Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency said 13 were killed after a “bomb-laden vehicle” exploded on Saturday.
Tel Abyad is one of two major border towns that bore the brunt of the heaviest fighting when Ankara launched the incursion on October 9 against the YPG, drawing international condemnation.
The YPG had for years been allied with the United States in the fight against ISIS.
The explosion comes after two weeks of relative calm in north-east Syria, and a day after Turkish and Russian troops began joint ground patrols under a deal between the two countries that pushed the YPG from Turkey’s border.
While Moscow said the YPG had withdrawn to at least 30 kilometres from the border under the deal, Ankara has been sceptical and held out the possibility of new attacks if members of what it sees as a terrorist group remain.
“We condemn this inhuman attack of the bloody PKK/YPG terrorists who attacked the innocent civilians of Tel Abyad who returned to their homes and lands as a result of the Operation Peace Spring,” Turkey’s defence ministry said on Twitter.
Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also pointed the finger at the YPG.
A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPG, was not available for comment.
The PKK, based in Turkey, is designated a terrorist group by Ankara and some of its western allies. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group because of its ties to PKK militants in south-east Turkey.
Days after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision on October 6 to pull US troops out of north-east Syria, Turkey and allied Syrian rebels launched a cross-border offensive seizing control of Tel Abyad and a strip of land along the frontier.
Truces Ankara struck with Washington and then Moscow halted fighting in recent weeks. The UK-based Observatory said about 300,000 people have been displaced by the offensive and 120 civilians killed.
The incursion, which was condemned by scores of countries in the West and the Middle East, left the Turkey-backed rebel Syrian National Army largely in control of Tel Abyad.
On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had information that the YPG had not completed its pull-out from the border region.
Syrian regime soldiers near Manbij after Damascus clinched a deal for its troops to move into the Kurdish-run north-east