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Ethnic Kurds clashing with Syrian rebels

Dec. 6, 2012 at 4:39 PM

CEYLANPINAR, Turkey, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- With the Bashar Assad regime on shaky ground, fears are growing of widening ethnic warfare between Syrian rebels and independence-minded Kurds.

The New York Times Thursday reported clashes between Arabs and ethnic Kurdish militias who are prepared to fight for their own autonomous Kurdish state if Assad is ousted.

"We want to have a Kurdish nation," Divly Fadal Ali, 18, a Syrian refugee, told the Times at a Kurdish community center in a village in neighboring Turkey. "We want our own schools, our own hospitals. We want the government to admit our existence. We want recognition of our Kurdish identity."

Most Syrian rebels are Sunni Muslims, causing concern among Syrian Shiites, Druze, Kurds and Christians, the Times noted. Ethnic and sectarian fighting erupted last month in the northern Syrian village of Ras-al-Ain, after rebel forces battled government troops.

The Times said Iraqi Kurds have been trained by Syrian Kurds to fight, prompting concern that Syria may become a haven for Kurdish militants capable of conducting cross-border attacks in southeastern Turkey, which fears an autonomous Kurdish enclave in Syria.

The Kurdish Worker's Party, or PKK, has fought an insurgency inside Turkey since the 1980s.

More than 40,000 people have died in Syria's civil war.

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