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Turkey targets Kurdish positions in Syria's Afrin

Syrian rebel fighters have massed around Afrin [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2018

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Turkey launched new strikes on Kurdish positions in Afrin on Saturday, as 'first stage' of Ankara's operations in northern Syria begins.


Turkey launched news strikes on Kurdish militia "shelters and hideouts" in northern Syria on Saturday, as Ankara announced 'phase one' of operations in Afrin.

Turkey's army claimed the attacks on People's Protection Units (YPG) positions were in "legitimate self-defence", after Ankara said Kurdish fighters opened fire on their troops.

Other strikes also took place on Friday, following days of tensions between the two sides over control of the Syrian town.

Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army fighters have massed on the border and areas surrounding Afrin, ahead of an expected assault on the YPG-held town.

Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said Friday that operations to take Afrin had "de-facto begun".

Ankara is believed to be shoring up support among allies to start the offensive. Russia reportedly began to withdraw its troops from around Afrin earlier this week, but this has since been denied by Moscow.

Turkey would likely require the acquiescence of Russia to begin the operation. Turkey's army chief General Hulusi Akar and head of intelligence Hakan Fidan were in Moscow on Thursday for talks on Syria.

The tacit approval of the US and EU, who have supported the YPG in operations against the Islamic State group, is also being sought. Both have appealed for calm.

Ankara considers the YPG to be a Syrian off-shoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has fought a decades’ long insurgency in southern Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to launch ground operations to oust the YPG from Afrin.

Ankara claims such an offensive is necessary to prevent Kurdish forces opening a "terror corridor" in northern Syria.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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