ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Yenisafak, a Turkish newspaper close to the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed the Saturday killing of Syrian Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf and hailed it as a success in Ankara’s ongoing invasion of northern Syria after US President Donald Trump ordered American troops out.
Members of Turkey-sponsored “Syrian National Army,” a ragtag collection of extremist militias, killed Khalaf at a checkpoint along with at least two others while she was traveling from the eastern Jazeera canton to the town of Ain Issa on the M4 road.
Khalaf, 35, the General Secretary of Syria Future Party, was executed on the spot by the SNA militants, according to a statement her party released.
Turkish Yenisafak, on its part, claimed she was struck “from the air thanks to intelligence work” as she was traveling from Raqqa, the former capital of the so-called Islamic State to the northeastern city of Qamishli. The report implied it was a targeted assassination and the work of the Turkish air force or army drones.
“The terror group received a huge blow. Khalef was neutralized in a successful operation,” it read.
However, graphic videos and pictures shared on social media pages by the Turkey-backed groups showed her bullet-ridden vehicle with no apparent sign of an air attack.
In a widely shared video recording of the cold-blooded executions, an Arabic-speaking SNA member can be heard shouting, “God is great! Film me, film me,” as he and others shoot two unarmed civilians presumed to have been traveling with Khalaf. Both can be seen on the ground with their hands tied from behind.
Notoriously pro-government A Haber TV broadcast the video, alleging she was a “terrorist” commander.
Khalaf was a leading figure in post-ISIS American efforts to rebuild the war-torn region and create a bridge between different ethnic and religious inhabitants. Those efforts about which she talked to Kurdistan 24 in March 2018 and the fight against the Islamic State have now been effectively halted after Turkey’s air and ground assault.
A Syrian opposition group opposed to the Kurdish-led rule and unaffiliated with Turkey’s mercenaries also said Khalaf was executed on the field following an ambush by Ahrar al-Sharqiya, a participant in the SNA.
“Ahrar al-Sharqiya group abused the bodies after the execution,” the group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently said.
Brett McGurk, the former Presidential Envoy to the anti-ISIS Coalition under the Obama and Trump administrations, called the field execution of Khalaf a war crime and criticized the Turkish media.
“Turkish state-backed media hails a ‘successful operation’ to ‘neutralize’ an unarmed 35-year-old woman working to unite Arabs, Christians, and Kurds in [northeast] Syria. Ms. Hevrin Khalef was reportedly dragged from a vehicle and shot to death. That’s a war crime,” he said on Twitter.
“My God. Forgive us,” wrote US Congressman from Philadelphia Brendan Boyle.
A Turkish opposition figure in exile, Tuna Beklevic, said the killing of the prominent female Kurdish leader showed the “Erdogan Regime is no longer only a threat for Turkey, but for the whole region.”
“It is now a symbol of instability for the entire world. It is time to immediately bring sanctions on the Erdogan regime for a better world!”
During a press conference in the city of Qamishlo on Oct. 5, Khalaf stated that the then Turkish threats “to occupy this land in order to protect the Turkish people don’t adjust to reality,” reminding that US-allied Kurds had liberated northeast Syria from the Islamic State.
“We – all the political forces – reject these threats, especially because they impede our campaign to create a solution for the Syrian crisis,” she stated.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany