At least nine people were killed on Sunday when a car bomb exploded in a vegetable market in the northwest Syrian city of Afrin, in the latest such attack in towns under control of Turkey-backed rebel groups, witnesses and rebel sources said.
They said the blast came from a detonated car parked close to the busy market in the city only days after similar explosions hit crowded civilian areas in the towns of Azaz, Rae and al Bab near the border with Turkey under the control of Turkish-backed forces.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last Wednesday his army would launch in coming days an operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, whom his country views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) - a group classified by the West as a terrorist group and that has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.
Residents and rebels in the mainly Arab-populated rebel-held northwest suspect the YPG are behind the attacks to sow fear and destabilize their zone before the start of the Turkish offensive against areas they control east of the Euphrates in northern Syria.
"The security situation is unbearable. We walk in the streets in fear and avoid any parked cars fearing it could be detonated," Ibrahim Darwish, a resident of Afrin, told Reuters.
The Turkish military helped by its Syrian rebel allies seized Afrin, a mainly Kurdish city, from the YPG in March 2018 in a major offensive into the northwest of Syria where Ankara has carved a de facto buffer zone.