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1ST LEAD Turkey refuses to back down on military action against Syrian Kurds By dpa correspondents

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Istanbul/Beirut (dpa) - Turkey said Friday it would move forward with a planned offensive against US-backed Kurdish militias in the north Syrian region of Afrin, despite appeals from the United States.

"This operation will be realized, it will be carried out," Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli said Friday in Ankara, according to state news agency Anadolu.

Canikli did not say when the threatened attack would take place.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke Sunday of an operation "in the coming days."

"We would call on ... the Turks to not take any actions of that sort," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday, referring to apparent preparations for an attack.

Anadolu reported Friday that Turkish forces had again fired artillery at the US-backed Kurdish People‘s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin. Turkish forces said they were retaliating against "harassing fire" from the YPG.

A Kurdish official said more fighters had been brought into Afrin to face the threatened attack.

"The situation is tense and we have been having sporadic shelling throughout the day by the Turkish artillery on civilian areas in the countryside of Afrin," Rojhat Efrin, a YPG spokesman, told dpa. 

Kurdish sources said some 10,000 Kurdish fighters were now in the Afrin region.

Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said hundreds of Syrian rebels allied with Turkey had also been positioned near Afrin ahead of the looming battle.

Late Friday, Abdel Rahman he added that Kurdish fighters had shelled the outskirts of the city of al-Bab, north-east of Aleppo, injuring at least six people including children.

It was the first time that the Kurds had shelled the city, which is controlled by Syrian rebels loyal to Turkey, he said.

He added that the shelling was a response to the continued shelling of Afrin.

Suleiman Jafaar, a Kurdish official in the city of Afrin, told dpa late Friday "we in Afrin have no other choice but to confront any attacking force."

Turkey argues that the US-backed Kurdish militias controlling Afrin are linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK), a group fighting for greater autonomy for the country‘s sizeable Kurdish minority. Ankara considers the PKK a terrorist group.


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