Ex­plo­sion kills at least 10 peo­ple in Syr­ian border town taken by Turk­ish forces

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At least 10 peo­ple were killed and 25 wounded when a car bomb ex­ploded yes­ter­day in a Syr­ian border town seized by Turk­ish-backed forces last month, wit­nesses and a res­cuer said.

Tel Abyad was one of two border towns that ex­pe­ri­enced some of the heav­i­est fight­ing when Ankara launched its cross-border of­fen­sive on Oc­to­ber against Kur­dish YPG forces in north-east Syria.

The YPG – which Ankara con­sid­ers a ter­ror­ist group be­cause of its ties to Kur­dish PKK mil­i­tants in south-east Turkey – had for years been al­lied to the United States in the fight against ISIS. Turkey be­gan the in­cur­sion af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump

pulled US troops out of the area. Yes­ter­day’s blast caused ex­ten­sive dam­age to a main street in Tel Abyad, send­ing thick smoke into the air above the wreck­age, videos posted on so­cial me­dia showed.

The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, a Bri­tish war mon­i­tor, said four civil­ians from the same fam­ily were among those killed by the ex­plo­sion, which the lo­cal coun­cil said res­i­dents blamed on the YPG and PKK.

Turkey’s De­fence Min­istry also ac­cused the YPG of car­ry­ing out the at­tack, which it said had killed three peo­ple and wounded 20, while a senior spokesman for the Kur­dish-led Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces ac­cused “Turk­ish-backed mer­ce­nar­ies” of be­ing re­spon­si­ble.

“Af­ter ex­pelling the ma­jor­ity of Kurds, loot­ing al­most all the shops and houses in this Kur­dish dis­trict of Tel Abyad, Turk­ish-backed mer­ce­nar­ies are now at­tempt­ing to dis­place the re­main­ing Kur­dish pop­u­la­tion from their homes by ran­dom ex­plo­sions in civil­ian ar­eas,” Mustafa Bali, the head of SDF’s me­dia of­fice, tweeted.

Sim­i­lar blasts fre­quently hit crowded civil­ian ar­eas in the mainly Arab-pop­u­lated towns near the border with Turkey.

The Kur­dish-led mili­tias say their fight­ers are en­gaged in a guer­rilla cam­paign against Turk­ish forces but deny at­tack­ing civil­ians.

Else­where, SDF fight­ers fought off an at­tack on Saturday by Turk­ish troops and their Syr­ian prox­ies on the town of Ain Issa, where the force has bases and of­fices.

“Turk­ish forces launched at­tacks with tanks, ar­tillery and a large num­ber of mer­ce­nar­ies... to in­vade Ain Issa,” the SDF said. The Ob­ser­va­tory said Turk­ish drones and ar­tillery bat­ter­ies were back­ing pro-Ankara fight­ers in clashes a kilo­me­tre from the town.

“The SDF are try­ing to pre­vent Turk­ish forces and their Syr­ian prox­ies from ad­vanc­ing to­wards the town,” Ob­ser­va­tory head Rami Ab­dulrah­man said.

Ain Issa lies on the south­ern edge of the “safe zone” in­side Syria that Turkey wants to clear of Kur­dish fight­ers, and on the M4 high­way that runs east to west across the north­ern part of the coun­try.

Turkey said it would sus­pend its mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion af­ter an Oc­to­ber 22 deal with Moscow, but its forces have con­tin­ued to inch for­ward ever since, the Ob­ser­va­tory says.

Turkey’s De­fence Min­istry also ac­cused the Kur­dish YPG of car­ry­ing out the at­tack

AFP

Peo­ple help a woman past a burn­ing car af­ter an ex­plo­sion in the north­ern Syr­ian town of Tel Abyad yes­ter­day

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