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Turkish military attacks U.S.-supported Kurdish forces in Syria

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the YPG, Syrian Kurds allied with the United States against the Islamic State, moved west of the Euphrates River despite warnings from Ankara.

By Fred Lambert
Turkish military attacks U.S.-supported Kurdish forces in Syria
Kurdish YPG fighters walk on a road in northern Syria on March 19, 2013. Turkey confirmed Monday it had twice attacked YPG positions in northern Syria after the fighters crossed west of the Euphrates despite warnings from Ankara. Photo by fpolat69/Shutterstock

TELL ABIAD, Syria, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Turkey's prime minister said the Turkish military conducted attacks in Syria against Kurdish People's Protection Units, or the YPG, a key U.S. ally against the Islamic State.

Referring to the group as the PYD -- the Democratic Union Party, of which the YPG is the armed link -- Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkish television on Monday, "We have said 'The PYD will not pass to the west of the Euphrates. We'll hit them if they do.' And we did hit them twice."

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The BBC quoted the YPG as saying Turkey shot at their forces on Sunday in the town of Tell Abiad, which the Kurds seized from IS forces in June. The YPG accused Turkey of firing on the Kurdish-held village of Zormikhar earlier this year, which Turkish officials denied.

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In July a cease-fire between the Kurdistan Workers' Party -- also known as the PKK, a Kurdish militant group in Turkey -- and the Ankara government broke down around the same time an IS suicide bombing killed more than 30 people in the town of Suruc, prompting the Turkish government to begin conducting airstrikes against both the PKK and IS.

While the United States and European Union join Turkey in recognizing the PKK as a terrorist group, the U.S.-led coalition against IS has provided the YPG with air support during anti-IS operations in northern Syria.

The YPG, supported by U.S. airstrikes, earlier this year seized a series of towns in northern Syria from IS forces, depriving the group, whose de facto capital is located in Raqqa, of strategic supply points leading in from Turkey. In January the YPG beat back IS militants from the city of Kobane after months of heavy street-fighting.

The BBC reported officials in Ankara fear YPG advances along the southern border with Syria could motivate separatist sentiments among Kurds in Turkey.

Hurriyet Daily News reported the Turkish government said the PYD and its armed wing, the YPG, are affiliated with the PKK and should also be considered a terrorist group.

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Hurriyet Daily News quoted HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş as saying Turkish authorities are trying to "make the situation convenient to virtually declare war" on the Syrian Kurdish region.

"While the PYD hasn't carried out any threat against Turkey and while the Syrian Kurds have been extending their hands of fraternity and peace to Turkey, Davutoglu's consideration of the PYD as a threat instead of considering [IS] as a threat is a shame for him," Demirtaş said.

Davutoglu's confirmation of the cross-border attacks came less than a week before Turkey holds general elections on Nov. 1.

The news also comes amid increased efforts against IS militants following a double suicide bombing that killed more than 100 people in Ankara earlier this month. The attack occurred at a Kurdish peace rally and mainly killed activists with the pro-Kurd HDP party, which believes it was specifically targeted.

During a firefight with IS militants Monday in the city of Diyarbakir, two police officers were killed and five injured, while seven of the militants were killed and 12 captured. Turkish security forces also reportedly arrested 30 IS militants during operations Tuesday in the central Turkish towns of Konya and Cumra.

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