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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Turkish Warplanes Hit Kurdish Targets on Iraqi-Syrian Frontier

By Dorian Jones, Zana Omar April 25, 2017

Turkish warplanes on Tuesday targeted fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and a key Kurdish affiliate on the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, where Kurdish units play an important role in a loosely knit coalition battling Islamic State extremists.

Monitors from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in a statement late Tuesday, said at least 18 people had been killed in the strikes and warned the death toll was likely to rise.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization for its decades-long autonomy push against the Ankara government in Turkey's southeast. On Tuesday, the Turkish military defended the expanded airstrikes.

Turkish warplanes on Tuesday targeted fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and a key Kurdish affiliate on the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, where Kurdish units play an important role in a loosely knit coalition battling Islamic State extremists.

Monitors from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in a statement late Tuesday, said at least 18 people had been killed in the strikes and warned the death toll was likely to rise.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization for its decades-long autonomy push against the Ankara government in Turkey's southeast. On Tuesday, the Turkish military defended the expanded airstrikes.

Turkish warplanes on Tuesday targeted fighters from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and a key Kurdish affiliate on the Iraqi-Syrian frontier, where Kurdish units play an important role in a loosely knit coalition battling Islamic State extremists.

Monitors from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, in a statement late Tuesday, said at least 18 people had been killed in the strikes and warned the death toll was likely to rise.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist organization for its decades-long autonomy push against the Ankara government in Turkey's southeast. On Tuesday, the Turkish military defended the expanded airstrikes.

Helicopters containing a contingent of U.S. military arrived at the site later Tuesday to assess the damage. U.S. commanders accompanied the YPG forces on a tour of the damage but refused to speak to reporters.

A YPG commander who requested anonymity told VOA that YPG leaders had come under a lot of pressure from Turkish airstrikes and told the Americans that they might not be able continue to fight IS in Raqqa if the U.S. was not going protect them and their families from future attacks.

As the U.S. contingent was preparing to leave the site, thousands of Kurdish protesters who were marching near the mountain approached them. They chanted slogans against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and demanded that the U.S.-led coalition act to halt the Turkish raids.

"I ask the coalition, which fights IS terrorism, to protect the Syrian Kurdistan that was built by the blood of our youth," a female protester shouted. "We removed IS from this land. We defeated all terrorist groups. We protected humanity against terrorism. Now the international community has the responsibility to protect us."

There was no immediate public response to the strikes from the Pentagon or U.S. strategists. It remained unclear late Tuesday what impact, if any, the airstrikes would have on long-range U.S. efforts to coordinate an attack on the Islamic State stronghold at Raqqa with forces that include Kurdish fighters from several separate Kurdish factions.

The YPG makes up the backbone of the coalition backed by both the United States and Russia. That coalition, a loosely knit alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, is closing in on the Islamic State de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria, and analysts say a major anti-jihadist assault on the city is likely later this year.

VOA's Ahed Al Hendi and Rikar Hussein contributed to this report.



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