Syria opposition leaders and Kurdish officials yesterday condemned reported looting by Turkish-led forces who seized the Kurdish-majority city of Afrin the previous day.
Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies made a lightning advance into the city after Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia appeared to have retreated.
Agence France-Presse reporters in Afrin and a war monitor said Turkish-backed Syrian forces went on a rampage after taking the city, pillaging shops and homes.
A rebel leader early yesterday condemned their behavior.
“The looting and stealing of private and public property is a crime,” said Mohamed Alloush, a key figure in the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.
“All those who took part in this decadence need to have their hands slapped hard,” he said on Twitter, calling for them to face trial and for victims to receive compensation.
The fighters broke into shops, restaurants and houses, and left with foodstuff, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods, the AFP reporters said.
They placed the loot in cars and small trucks and drove them out of the city, they added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor also reported looting, saying Turkey’s Syrian allies “have begun pillaging private property, political and military sites and shops.”
The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on sources across Syria for its information, has reported looting in several villages since pro-Ankara forces on Jan. 20 launched an assault on the wider Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
“We were unsettled by the news of some looting from the homes of our people in Afrin,” said Khaled Khoja, a former head of the National Coalition leading opposition body.
He said the goal of the Turkish-led operation was “to liberate our Kurdish and Arab brothers from the authoritarianism of the YPG and serve them by establishing a civilian administration worthy of the Syrian revolution.”
There is no place for “highway robbers” among opposition fighters, he said.
Kurdish leader Abdel Basset Sida, who resigned from the National Coalition after the start of the Turkish assault, also condemned the damage wreaked on Afrin city.
“The destruction of the Kawa Haddad statue ... and the looting of shops and homes is morally deplorable,” he said, referring to a monument to Kurdish hero Kawa Haddad, which was torn from its mantle on Sunday.
The loss of Afrin comes as Kurds prepare to mark the spring festival of Nowruz tomorrow.
The National Kurdish Council, part of a key opposition negotiating committee, condemned “actions insulting to the Kurds,” including the destruction of the statue.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini yesterday also criticized Turkey’s military offensive in Afrin, calling on Ankara to ensure that fighting eases in the conflict-torn country.
“I am worried about this,’’ Mogherini told reporters in Brussels.
She said that international efforts in Syria are supposed to be “aiming at de-escalating the military activities and not escalating them.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run news agency said that 11 people — seven civilians and four Turkish-backed Syrian fighters — were killed in an explosion in a building in Afrin town center as it was being cleared of booby traps.
Anadolu News agency said the bomb was reportedly left by Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Additional reporting by AP
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