ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Turkish government has been recruiting and retraining Islamic State (IS) fighters in its ongoing offensive in the Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) city of Afrin, according to an ex-IS source.
During a phone interview with The Independent, a former IS fighter named Faraj from northeast Syria, who reportedly closely monitors the movement of extremists, said Turkey was “training IS members and sending them to Afrin.”
“Most of those who are fighting in Afrin against the YPG [People’s Protection Units] are IS, though Turkey has trained them to change their assault tactics,” the former member stated.
Faraj, 32, said he does not support the Kurdish forces but is also skeptical about Turkey’s manipulation of IS fighters, adding Ankara is using the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as a decoy to cover their alignment with the extremist group.
“Turkey treats IS like toilet tissues,” he told The Independent. “After use, they will be thrown away.”
According to Faraj, Turkish commanders have retrained the extremists to abandon their traditional tactics of suicide bombings and car bombings “because this would make the IS-Turkish cooperation too blatant.”
“We leave the suicide attacks for the YPG and PKK so that the world will be convinced that they are terrorists,” the 32-year-old quoted a Turkish officer.
On Jan. 20, Turkish warplanes began striking Afrin as dozens of civilians, including children and women, were reported to have been killed by air raids and shelling.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has labeled the campaign “Operation Olive Branch,” and says the offensive is meant to clear Syria’s Kurdish-held northwest district of YPG fighters who Turkey claims are an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ankara argues the US-backed Kurdish forces are a “terrorist organization” and has been incensed by Washington’s support for the YPG.
The US, which has backed the Kurds in the ongoing battle against IS in Syria, said it was concerned and has called on Turkey to limit its military offensive in the Kurdish region.
Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih, who is covering developments in Afrin, said the bombing has targeted villages which the Turkish army is seeking to move toward but have not made any progress.