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Turkish jets destroy Kurdish targets in Syria's Afrin

By Allen Cone
Turkish jets destroy Kurdish targets in Syria's Afrin
Members of Free Syrian Army tour with their guns as they hold Turkish and their flag in the Syria city of Azez, near the Syrian-Turkish border, on Friday. The Turkish army reportedly engaged in an operation against the Kurdish Popular Protection Units forces in Syria's Afrin. Photo by Hasan Kirmizitas/EPA

Jan. 20 (UPI) -- Turkish jets struck U.S.-backed Kurdish militia targets Saturday in the Syrian town of Afrin, Turkey's state-run news reported.

On the Turkish side of border, explosions were heard after the jets crossed into Afrin, the Anadolu Agency reported.

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Members of the non-Kurdish, anti-Assad Free Syrian Army then entered Afrin via armored vehicles from Kilis-Hatay border zone, the agency reported.

More than 50 Turkish vehicles -- artillery, tanks, rocket launchers and heavy equipment transporters -- were observed on the Turkish-Syrian border, a U.S. defense official told CNN on Friday.

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The Turkish armed forces said all but five of the 113 targets had been hit. The dead and wounded are Kurdish militia members.

Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said "innocent Syrians" are not being targeted.

Afrin is controlled by the People's Protection Units, which is largely a Kurdish militia known as the YPG that Turkey considers a terror group.

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Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian arm of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, despite its assistance in fighting the Islamic State.

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The United States and European is backing the YPG although it considers the PKK as a terrorist group.

Earlier Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the military offensive will next move on the Syrian town of Manbij farther east on the Turkish border. A 30,000-member U.S.-trained border force from the Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by YPG fighters, is training there.

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"We know that without security in Syria, there cannot be security in Turkey," Erdogan told members of his ruling party in Kutahya.

The offensive is called Operation Olive Branch.

"The operation is being carried out within the right of self-defense and with respect to Syrian territorial integrity," the armed forces said in a statement.

Erdogan has threatened to "drown" the force because the United States is "building an army of terror" on his border.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it had relocated some troops out of the Afrin area "to prevent possible provocations and to exclude the possibility of the threat to the life and health of Russian servicemen."

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