Turkey blames Kur­dish mili­tia as blast kills 12 in bor­der town

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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.

AFP

Syr­ian regime sol­diers near Man­bij af­ter Da­m­as­cus clinched a deal for its troops to move into the Kur­dish-run north-east

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