Eight Turkish troops killed in clash with Kurdish militia

Deaths in separate attacks come during two--week-old offensive in enclave of Afrin

Syrian Kurds take part in a funeral for Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia fighters, killed in clashes in the Kurdish enclave in the northern Syrian city of Afrin on February 3rd. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Syrian Kurds take part in a funeral for Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia fighters, killed in clashes in the Kurdish enclave in the northern Syrian city of Afrin on February 3rd. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

Turkey said eight of its troops were killed in Ankara’s military operation against a Syrian Kurdish militia in the deadliest day in the two-week-old offensive in the enclave of Afrin.

In a statement late on Saturday, the Turkish military said five soldiers were killed after their tank in Syria came under attack near Afrin.

Earlier in the day, three Turkish soldiers were reported killed in the Afrin offensive — one was killed in the area of the tank attack, another in northern Syria and the third on the Turkish side of the border in what Ankara said was an attack by Syrian Kurdish militiamen.

The total death toll for Turkish troops since the operation, codenamed Olive Branch, started on January 20th now stands at 13.

Turkey began the incursion into Afrin to rout the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers to be a terrorist organisation and an extension of Kurdish insurgents fighting within Turkey.

From Istanbul, aTurkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey will not tolerate the presence of the YPG “anywhere” along its southern border, hinting that Ankara might expand the Afrin operation eastward.

Turkey’s first demand is to see the YPG move east of the Euphrates River and leave the town of Manbij, where US troops backing the Syrian Kurdish fighters are stationed, Mr Kalin said.

He called on the United States to “disengage” from the YPG and said Turkey will continue communications with “our American allies to avoid any confrontation”.

Turkey shares a 911km border with Syria. The YPG controls much of the territory along the border and an uninterrupted strip from Manbij to the Iraqi border.

Meanwhile, in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib, al-Qaeda-linked militants said they downed a Russian fighter jet and killed its pilot after he ejected from the plane and landed on the ground.

The pilot resisted being captured and fired at the militants who then shot and killed him, according to one of the militants and Syrian monitors.

The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the downing of the Su-25 and said the pilot was killed in fighting with “terrorists”.–PA