Fighting between Arab and Kurds raises spectre of escalating conflict in northern Syria

 

Beirut

The leader of a Kurdish faction embroiled in clashes with the Syrian rebels has vowed to repel further aggravation, as fighting between Arab and Kurds raises the spectre of a new front in an increasingly multifaceted conflict.

Kurdish representatives today remained locked in negotiations with elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) after clashes in northern Syria which killed dozens and sparked mass kidnappings. Around 50 Kurdish hostages are still being held by a rebel brigade, according to several Kurdish politicians. 

"We will defend ourselves, we will defend our people" said Saleh Muslim Mohammed, the head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which is fighting a separatist guerrilla war in Turkey. "There are parts of the Free Syrian Army who seem to be working for Turkey and have a strategy to hurt the Kurds."

The clashes heighten concern that the fight will increasingly become a proxy war gouged along ethnic and sectarian lines, in what some have described as the "Lebanonisation" of Syria - a reference to its smaller neighbour's bloody 15-year civil war.

Turkey has expressed concern that the PYD has seized control over Syria's Kurdish areas, raising the risk of Ankara stepping up involvement if Kurds - who so far have largely stood back from the conflict - becoming increasingly embroiled.

The fighting first erupted a week ago when FSA members entered Aleppo's Kurdish area of Ashrafiya. Details are disputed but the following day thousands of residents took to the streets calling for them to leave. A video from the demonstration shows the crowd chanting as they march down a hill, before gunfire breaks out.

Mr Mohammed claims that ten civilians were killed by FSA gunmen. "There was no other way, so our forces attacked them and killed nineteen of them," he said. 

Though he denies the PYD has an armed wing, Mr Mohammed regularly refers to the militants in the Popular Protection Units  - a fighting force which he says numbers over 1,000 soldiers - as "our men" and other Kurdish factions maintain they are affiliated. 

The fighting was followed by reprisal kidnappings of Kurds on the road between Aleppo and the Kurdish town of Afrin, with as many as 300 taken captive, most of whom have now been released.

Mr Mohammed says the PYD enjoys cordial relations with some elements of the FSA, blaming the kidnappings on the Northern Storm Brigade, led by the controversial Ammar al-Dadikhi. The PYD also pointed the finger at the group for an attack on the Kurdish village of Kastal Jendo, where fighting continued into this week.

Senior FSA figures have expressed regret the clashes took place, but with the leadership unable to assert control over the fragmented armed groups, events have the potential to spiral.

Further complicating the situation is intra-Kurdish rivalries.

Other parties claim they are sidelined by the PYD and accuse it of collaborating with the Assad regime. "We have many problems with the PYD.. any party that is against the Free Syrian Army is against the freedom of Syria," said Abdul Hakim Bashar, head of the rival Kurdish National Council in Syria.

"The Kurds can't unite themselves because of these tensions," said Yussef Anwar, an executive member of the Kurdish Patriotic Movement, which promotes unity between various Kurdish factions. "The situation is worsening, it's chaos now."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Sport
Mario Balotelli (left) trudges off at half-time last night, to be substituted during the interval
football
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Part Time SEN 1:1 Teacher

£40 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experience SEN Te...

ICT/Business Studies Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: ICT/Business Studies ...

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?