Turkey strikes Kurdish militia in Syria, demands it withdraw

February 14, 2016 04:12
1 minute read.

Turkey's military shelled Kurdish militia targets in northern Syria on Saturday and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu demanded the group withdraw from the area in a move that further complicated the conflict across the NATO member's border.

The shelling took place after Kurdish YPG fighters backed by Russian bombing raids drove Syrian rebels from a former military air base, south of the town of Azaz and near the Turkish border. Davutoglu said Turkey retaliated after YPG fighters carried out "harassing actions" on the border.

"Today retaliation was taken under the rules of engagement against forces that represented a threat in Azaz and the surrounding area, to counter the efforts of these fighters, who are clearly an offshoot of PKK, efforts to gain their own territory in Syria as well as to ensure that refugees can remain in that area safely," Davutoglu told reporters in the eastern Anatolian city of Erzincan.

A Kurdish official said the Menagh base, which was hit, had been captured by the Kurdish-allied Jaysh al-Thuwwar group rather than the YPG. Both are part of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.

The shelling came amid growing anger in Ankara with the United States for supporting the YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organisation, in its fight against Islamic State militants.

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