Turkey returns fire on Kurdish YPG in northern Syria
ANKARA – Turkish forces retaliated with artillery fire overnight and destroyed Kurdish YPG militia targets after YPG fighters opened fire on Turkey-backed forces in northern Syria, the Turkish military said on Wednesday.
The United States supports the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Syria, despite repeated protests from NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists and fears their advance will inflame a Kurdish insurgency at home.
The Turkish army said that YPG machine-gun fire on Tuesday evening targeted Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army elements in the Maranaz area south of the town of Azaz in northern Syria.
“Fire support vehicles in the region were used to retaliate in kind against the harassing fire and the identified targets were destroyed/neutralised,” the military statement said.
The boom of artillery fire could be heard from the nearby Turkish border town of Kilis, broadcaster Haberturk said.
Turkey’s Ihlas news agency had reported earlier that the YPG fighters launched intensive gunfire with heavy machine guns around 9:30 pm (1830 GMT) on Tuesday evening from the Afrin region in northwest Syria. It was not clear whether there were any casualties in the exchange of fire.
Turkey was angered by a U.S. decision last month to arm the YPG as part of the battle for Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa. Ankara considers the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey and is also considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.
The PKK has carried out an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and more than 40,000 people, most of them Kurds, have died in the fighting.
Faced with turmoil across its southern border, Turkey last year sent troops into Syria to support Free Syrian Army rebels fighting both Islamic State and Kurdish forces who control a large part of Syria’s northern border region.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey would not flinch from taking tougher action against the YPG in Syria if Turkey believed it needed to. -Reuters