Mon, Feb 05, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Eight Turkish troops die as government denies HRW claims


A Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army fighter is seen at al-Ajami village in Syria on Saturday.

Photo: Reuters

Eight Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday in Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish militia inside Syria, including five who died in a single attack on a tank, the army said, while the Turkish government denied reports that its border guards shot at refugees from Syria.

The losses marked the highest toll in one day for the Turkish military in operation Olive Branch, launched on Jan. 20 against Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which is seen by Ankara as a terror group.

The attack on the tank, details of which were not disclosed, was also the single deadliest attack on the military of the offensive so far.

The latest clashes brought the number of Turkish troops killed so far to 14.

The Turkish army and Ankara-backed Syrian rebel forces are seeking to oust the YPG from its western border stronghold of Afrin, but the operation so far has been marked by fierce clashes.

The Turkish army said that one of the soldiers was killed in a clash and another on the border area, without giving further details.

In a later statement, it added that a tank had been hit in another attack, killing all five servicemen inside.

A previous statement said one serviceman was killed and another wounded in that attack.

In retaliation, Turkish warplanes carried out airstrikes on the area from where the attack was carried out, destroying shelters and munitions dumps, it added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday said the Turkish army and allied rebels had suffered 25 fatalities between them in the operation so far.

Meanwhile, seven civilians have been killed on the Turkish side of the border in mortar fire that Ankara blames on the YPG.

Ankara says that major progress has been made in the 15-day operation, with almost 900 YPG fighters killed so far, although it is not possible to verify these figures.

Erdogan in a speech on Saturday said that the Turkish forces were beginning to take mountain positions and would head toward Afrin itself.

Meanwhile, Turkish guards at the border with Syria are indiscriminately shooting at and summarily returning asylum seekers attempting to cross into Turkey, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

A senior Turkish government official denied the report on Saturday.

“Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse,” HRW deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih said.

Of 16 Syrian refugees the watch spoke to, 13 said that Turkish border guards had shot toward them or other fleeing asylum seekers as they tried to cross while still in Syria, killing 10 people, including one child, and injuring several more.

Turkey has taken in more Syrian refugees than any other country, granting many temporary protection status and providing them with basic services, including medical care and education.

“However, Turkey’s generous hosting of large numbers of Syrians does not absolve it of its responsibility to help those seeking protection at its borders,” the watch added.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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