Middle EastWar

Car bomb kills Turkish soldiers, Syrian fighters in contested northeast

Turkey-led forces hit with string of car bombs since invading northeast Syria in October

Three Turkish soldiers and at least four Syrian fighters were killed in a car bombing near the town of Tal Abyad in northeast Syria on Thursday, January 16, according to statements by senior Turkish officials and Syrian opposition groups.

Major Şevket Tombul, Lieutenant Sinan Bilir and Corporal Mustafa Alpakli were killed near the town of Tal Abyad, Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül tweeted.

“Three of our brothers-in-arms fell as martyrs in a car bomb attack at a traffic stop,” Turkey’s defense ministry said in a statement provided to AFP.

Four members of a Turkey-led conglomerate of Syrian militias known as the Syrian National Army were also killed in the attack, according to releases by the SNA.

Thabit al-Khalaf, Abd al-Karim al-Shuhayli and Ali al-Shabib – all of the Ahrar al-Sharqiyya militia – and Ahmed al-Muhaymid of the 20th Division were killed in the bombing, which was carried out in the town of Suluk, the statements read.

The attack occurred in a strip of territory along the Turkish border in Syria’s northeast, controlled by Turkish solders and the SNA since Ankara launched an incursion against predominantly-Kurdish-led forces in the area in October 2019, dubbed Operation Peace Spring.

The bombing is the latest targeting Turkish soldiers and affiliated Syrian mercenaries in Syria’s northeast. Four Turkish soldiers were killed by a car bomb in northeast Syria last week, Reuters reported.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blamed “terrorists” for Thursday’s attack.

The area was previously controlled by the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, though the group has not claimed credit for any such attacks.

The U.S.-led military Coalition against Islamic State has supported the YPG in the war against ISIS since 2015, drawing intense objections from Ankara, which responded by launching Operation Peace Spring.

The incursion against the YPG resulted in multiple accusations of war crimes on behalf Turkey-backed fighters and displaced more than 100,000 people, most of them Kurds.

YPG-affiliated groups have in the past claimed responsibility for attacks on Turkey-affiliated forces in Afrin, another region of northern Syria captured by Turkey-backed forces during an earlier offensive against the predominantly-Kurdish group in 2018.

Turkey considers the YPG to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against Turkey’s government since 1984.

With reporting from AFP

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