Kurdistan Turkey kills 71 US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria: Army

Turkey kills 71 US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria: Army
Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters walk on the rubble of damaged shops and buildings in the city of Manbij, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, August 10, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) - Turkey's army, a key NATO ally, announced on Friday the killing of 71 US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) who are fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

In a press release, the Turkish General Staff said the figure belonged to the dates March 2-9, as a ground incursion into northern Syria largely halted due to an encounter with the US and Russian armies in a strip of land crowded with competing forces.

In total, Turkey killed 425 and wounded 37 YPG fighters in the area since the beginning of the Operation Euphrates Shield in August 2016, read the release.

The announcement came as the US strengthened its foothold in Syria with additional special operations soldiers and armed vehicles seen patrolling a demarcation line between YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Turkish army proxies near the town of Manbij to keep clashes at bay.

Manbij continues to be under control of Kurdish-aligned forces whose withdrawal has been a top Turkish demand since the town's liberation from the IS last year.

Although there have been reports of continued Turkish attacks on SDF positions, Kurdish officials are yet to comment on the killings.

Turkey considers the YPG as a "terrorist group" that is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a view officially rejected by the US administration.

A second Kurdish entity supported by the US in its immediate south, after the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, has alarmed Turkey which has more than 20 Kurdish-majority provinces where a renewed war with the PKK goes on.

Efforts to de-escalate the tensions near Manbij which Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly vowed to capture from the Kurds appear to have gone unheeded despite this week's tripartite meeting of US, Russian, and Turkish heads of militaries.

Any conflict between Turkey and Syrian Kurds is likely to impede an ongoing Coalition-supported SDF operation to liberate the de facto IS capital of Raqqa southward, a turn of events the US has warned against.

 

Editing by Ava Homa