Turkish military kills 71 militants

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Turkey kills 200 U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria
Turkey fighting militias in Syria

The Turkish military has killed 71 militants from the Syrian Popular Defence Units (YPG) militia and the allied Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in operations in Syria over the past week.

Turkey said on Friday that it launched an operation to drive Islamic State away from its border with Syria in August.

The government said that it would strike the U.S.-backed YPG if necessary to prevent them seizing territory there.

Turkey has long demanded that the YPG move out of the Syrian town of Manbij to the eastern side of the Euphrates river.

Ankara sees the militants as a terrorist group allied to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey.

NAN reports that on Aug. 24, 2016, Turkey launched a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border in a coordinated campaign with Syrian opposition fighters, who seized an IS-held village.

The operation, called “Euphrates Shield”, has a dual purpose: to dislodge Isis from Jarablus, its last major redoubt on the 500-mile border, and to contain the expansion of Kurdish militias in northern Syria.

Turkish tanks crossed the Syrian border as artillery and fighter jets pounded the militants in an operation backed by the US-led coalition.

The incursion also opened corridors for Syrian opposition fighters backed by Turkey, who mounted an assault in the area.

The operation marks the first time Ankara’s ground forces have ventured into Syria, with the exception of a brief operation early last year to rescue the tomb of an ancestor of the founder of the Ottoman empire.

Turkey said it had hit 81 targets in northern Syria with F-16 warplanes and had also shelled Isis positions.

The government in Ankara said the operation was an act of self-defence, in response to Isis shelling of Turkish border towns and suicide bombings and attacks targeting Turkish nationals.

It also billed it as an operation that would stem the flow of foreign fighters, who make up a significant contingent of Isis, to Syria, and the flight of refugees from the war-torn country.

The airstrikes were the first by Turkey, a Nato member, in Syria since November, when its fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane that had strayed into Turkish airspace, leading to a collapse of relations with Moscow that lasted until a rapprochement in July.

Relations between Turkey and the U.S. deteriorated over American backing of the YPG, which has expanded its sphere of influence in northern Syria as it conquered vast tracks of land from Isis with the backing of American air power.

Ankara considers the YPG as the Syrian arm of PKK, which is fighting an insurgency against the government and is a designated terrorist group, and considers Kurdish expansionism on its border a threat to national security.

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