Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria accuse Turkey of ‘provocative’ attacks

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State in Syria accused Turkey on Saturday of targeting it at least four times in the past week, calling the attacks provocative and hostile.

Turkey began a campaign of air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) camps in northern Iraq and Islamic State fighters in Syria last Friday, in what Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called a “synchronized fight against terror”.

The campaign has raised suspicions among Kurds that Ankara’s real agenda is checking Kurdish territorial ambitions rather than fighting Islamic State.

The president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Saturday condemned Turkey’s bombardment of Zargala, a village there which he said had killed civilians, and called for a return to the peace process between Ankara and the PKK.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the allegations would be investigated in a joint inquiry with the government of Iraq’s Kurdistan.

“It is known that there are no civilians in the Zargala terrorist camp but senior PKK members were present during the air strikes,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Meanwhile it is a fact that the terrorist organization unfortunately uses civilians as human shields,” it said.

The Syrian Kurdish YPG said in a statement on its website that it came under cross-border fire on four occasions in the past week and described sightings of Turkish jets over northern Syria.

The militia, which regularly coordinates with U.S.-led air forces bombing Islamic State, said it had nothing to do with conflict between the PKK and Turkey.

“We consider recent movements of the Turkish military as provocative and hostile actions,” the statement said.

“We ask our partners in the U.S.-led international coalition against ISIS to clarify their approach towards these actions of the Turkish military.”

Turkey made a turnaround last week by granting U.S.-led forces fighting Islamic State access to its air bases.

Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Seal said they had seen reports of the attacks on the YPG.

“We note that the Government of Turkey has clarified that its military action is directed solely at ISIL inside Syria, and, in response to PKK attacks in Turkey, against PKK encampments in Northern Iraq,” she said in a statement.

Seal said the United States supports various groups fighting Islamic State “while also encouraging them to respect the multi-ethnic makeup of areas they have cleared from ISIL.” 

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