Turkish military trades cross-border fire with Syrian Kurds

Published March 22nd, 2017 - 04:00 GMT
Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria. (AFP/File)
Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria. (AFP/File)

Cross-border tensions are rising between Kurdish militias in Syria and Turkey's military after a Turkish soldier was fatally shot from a Kurdish-controlled area in northwestern Syria.

On Wednesday, the Turkish army said the soldier had been shot to death in Hatay Province by a sniper on the Syrian side of the border.

Shortly after the incident, Turkish forces returned fire and shelled Syrian villages in the predominantly-Kurdish border region of Afrin, said the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is viewed as a "terrorist" group by Turkey.

According to the YPG, at least 10 civilians were wounded in the Turkish assault. The group has threatened to take reciprocal action.

“The Turkish army shelling is continuing,” YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters, adding, “Any response by our forces in this region comes as self defense.”

Ankara considers the Kurdish forces as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has long been fighting for autonomy on Turkish soil.

The YPG makes up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed coalition of fighters who have seized swathes of territory from Daesh in northern Syria.

Nearly two-thirds of the 30,000 SDF militants belong to the YPG. The US support for the SDF has enraged Turkey.

The militia has been playing a major role in liberating Raqqah, the self-proclaimed headquarters of Daesh that fell to the extremists in March 2013.

Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material.

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