Turkey ‘kills 200 US-backed Kurdish militia fighters in Syria’

US support for Kurdish troops in the fight against Isis in Syria and Iraq is a major source of tension between the two allies 

Thursday 20 October 2016 19:12
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The rebels were killed in a series of air strikes near the besieged city of Aleppo
The rebels were killed in a series of air strikes near the besieged city of Aleppo

Turkey says it has struck several Syrian Kurdish militia targets in the north of the country, killing up to 200 soldiers.

The air strikes overnight on Wednesday attacked 18 targets in Maarraat Umm Hawsh near Aleppo, state media reported, quoting military officials, and hit nine headquarter buildings, arms depots and vehicles. Kurdish sources disputed the number of dead.

The move is likely to inflame already tense relations between Ankara and the US over the role of Kurdish troops in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.

In Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdish-majority coalition Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been two of the most effective forces in limiting the expansion of Islamist movement Isis, and have been supplied with logistic and military support by the US.

Some YPG fighters, as well as Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces, are currently leading an offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Isis.

Turkey, however, views the separatist Kurdish movement as an extension of the Turkey-focused Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been involved in armed struggle against the state for decades.

The PKK is considered a terrorist group by Turkey and many other Western nations, including the US and other Nato allies.

Ankara mounted a huge operation to oust Isis forces from the Syrian border in August and curb the Syrian Kurdish administration in Rojava’s growing appetite for territorial expansion.

The hit targets were all in areas that the Syrian forces have recently taken over as they manage to drive Isis militants back towards their de facto capital, Raqqa.

The attack came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would act “rather than wait for terrorists to come and attack”.

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