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23 January, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Turkey steps up assault on Kurdish militia in Syria

AFP
Turkey steps up assault on Kurdish militia in Syria
Syrian opposition fighters walk in front of Turkish troops near the Syrian border at Hassa, Hatay province, yesterday, as Turkey claims progress in a cross-border offensive that has stoked concern among its allies and neighbours. AFP Photo

HASSA, Turkey: Turkey yesterday intensified its offensive against Kurdish militia targets in Syria as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed there would be no stepping back in a campaign that has stoked concern among Ankara's allies and neighbours, reports AFP.

The Turkish military on Saturday launched operation "Olive Branch", its second major incursion into Syrian territory during the seven-year civil war.

The operation, where Turkish war planes and artillery are backing a major ground incursion launched with Ankara-backed Syrian rebels and Turkish tanks, aims to oust the People's Protection Units (YPG) militia from its enclave of Afrin.

Turkey considers the YPG to be a terror group and the Syrian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has waged a bloody three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.

"We are determined. Afrin will be sorted out. We will take no step back," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Ankara, adding that Russia had given its backing. But the operation is hugely sensitive as Washington relied on the YPG to oust Islamic State (IS) jihadists from their Syrian strongholds and the Kurdish militia now holds much of Syria's north.

France has called for a UN Security Council meeting Monday to discuss concerns over flashpoint areas in Syria including the Turkish offensive.

Turkish television quoted military sources as saying the ground forces had already taken 11 villages in their advance into Syria. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that, since Saturday, 170 targets had been destroyed. "The cleaning up is taking place step-by-step," headlined the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper. Meanwhile, Turkish artillery were firing shells on YPG targets inside Syria and ground troops opened a new front by moving on Afrin from the town of Azaz to the east, state media said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of 21 civilians -- including six children -- had been killed in the operation.

But Ankara has denied inflicting civilian casualties, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accusing the YPG of sending out "nonsense propaganda and baseless lies". In a sign of the risks to Turkey, 11 rockets fired from Syria hit the Turkish border town of Reyhanli on Sunday, killing one Syrian refugee and wounding 46 people, 16 of them Syrian, the local governor said.

Yildirim said that the Turkish army had suffered no losses.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group dominated by the YPG, said in a statement that the operation amounted to "clear support" for IS.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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