2 injured in clashes between Turkish-backed groups in Afrin

The SOHR report said the violent clashes were over the control of smuggling routes.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels looting shops after seizing control in 2018 of Afrin, the Kurdish enclave in northwest Syria. (Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP).
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels looting shops after seizing control in 2018 of Afrin, the Kurdish enclave in northwest Syria. (Photo: Bulent Kilic / AFP).

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Clashes erupted again between Turkish-backed rebel factions in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Saturday, injuring two armed men, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) war monitor reported on Sunday.

The clashes transpired between the Al-Hamza Division and Al-Mu’tasim Division in the Bulbul district of Afrin’s countryside northwest of Aleppo. Two members of the Al-Mu’tasim Division were injured.

The SOHR report said the violent clashes were over the control of routes.

In an Aug. 1 report, the human rights organization Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) said that from early 2022 until late June, “Turkey-held areas witnessed nearly triple the fights that occurred in 2021.”

“Starting from 2018, STJ documented 69 SNA (Syrian National Army) intra-factional clashes in the three strips, of which 28 occurred over the first half of 2022, nine in 2021, 26 in 2020, and six in 2018 and 2019,” the report said.

A number of Syrian rebel groups under the umbrella of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) operate in three strips of Syrian territory under Turkish control. 

Turkey took control of these Syrian territories in three separate cross-border military operations between 2016 and 2019. They were Operation Euphrates Shield (August 2016-March 2017) in northern Aleppo, Operation Olive Branch (January 2018-March 2018) in Afrin, and Operation Peace Spring (October 2019) in an area between Tal Abyad and Serekaniye.

Since then, these areas have been plagued by bomb attacks and infighting between Turkish-backed SNA groups.

The STJ said this infighting indicates “a widening rift within the SNA’s military administration and an intensifying dispute spurred by pure personal interest, particularly financial gain, including royalty revenues collected from checkpoints, smuggling routes, and civilian properties.”

The STJ accused Turkish authorities of not taking serious measures to ensure “the safety of the population in these territories.”

Bassam al-Ahmad, SJT’s executive director, told Kurdistan 24 that the infighting is a sign that the Turkish-backed groups are very divided, despite Turkish efforts to unite them under the SNA umbrella.

“They call it SNA. They try to make a unified structure, but the reality is that they are separate groups, with their own interests,” he said. 

“This is because they want to control the property of people, they want to control checkpoints, they want to make more money from people,” he added. “So they fight to advance their own interests and take control of checkpoints of other groups so they can make more money from ransom.”

Moreover, he added that some groups want to take control of the SNA territory and leadership. 

“So they try to control and fight smaller groups to become the leader of all groups,” he said. 

In another report released Friday, the STJ said Turkish-backed groups in northwestern Syria’s Kurdish Afrin region detained at least 311 people in 2022, mainly for ransom.

Read More: 311 people detained in Afrin in 2022: SJT

According to the report, a total of 282 of them were released. 

“Most of the people who have been released had to pay money,” al-Ahmad previously told Kurdistan 24. “Some of them paid around $3,000 to be released.”