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'Widespread looting' in Afrin after Turkey and Syrian rebels expel Kurdish force

Syrian Turkish-backed forces went on the rampage in Afrin on Sunday [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 March, 2018

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Turkish-allied militiamen are looting the northern Syrian town of Afrin, a Syria war monitoring group has claimed, following the defeat of Kurdish forces in the city.
Ankara-backed Syrian rebel fighters are looting the northern town of Afrin after the Turkish military and allied Syrian fighters seized control of it, a Syria war monitoring group has claimed. 

Images have shown fighters loading trucks with household items and driving off with cars and tractors after much of Afrin's civilian population fled the city.

The looting began on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, after the Turkish and allied Syrian forces marched into the town centre and raised their flags there.

It comes after a two month offensive on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin from the joint Turkish and Syrian rebel force against the People's Protection Units (YPG).

The troops faced little resistance from the Kurdish militia, which withdrew, vowing a "new phase" of guerrilla tactics against Turkish troops and their allied fighters. 

Turkey insists the YPG are part of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade' long insurgency against the Turkish military.

The observatory - which monitors Syria's war through a network of activists on the ground - described extensive looting of shops, homes and cars in Afrin.

The Free Syrian Army - which is taking part in the offensive - has named and expelled a number of fighters it said is guilty of looting.

It's unclear what Turkey plans after the capture of Afrin.

Most of the city's 350,000 residents have fled since Turkey and allied Syrian rebels on 20 January launched an air and ground offensive to chase out the Kurdish fighters.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief has criticised Turkey over its military offensive in a northern Syrian town and is calling on Ankara to ensure that fighting eases in the conflict-torn country.

Mogherini told reporters in Brussels on Monday that international efforts in Syria are supposed to be "aiming at de-escalating the military activities and not escalating them".

She urged Turkey, Russia and Iran to guarantee that conflict "de-escalation zones" are established as promised, to "guarantee that that is what happens on the ground".

Meanwhile, Turkey's state-run news agency said a booby trap bomb reportedly left by Syrian Kurdish fighters in the northern Syrian town of Afrin has killed 11 people - seven civilians and four Turkish-backed fighters.

Anadolu Agency said the explosion occurred late on Sunday in a four-story building that Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces were clearing for explosives.

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