Sun, Oct 13, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Turkey denies targeting US outpost in Syria assault

‘NO SHOT FIRED’:Turkish forces were returning fire after coming under attack by Kurdish militants stationed near a US outpost, the Turkish defense minister said


Seasonal workers look on as a military vehicle carrying a tank drives by near the Syrian border in Sanliurfa Province, Turkey, yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Turkey yesterday denied targeting a US base in northern Syria after the Pentagon said its troops had come under artillery fire.

“There was no shot fired whatsoever on the US observation post,” Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar said in a statement to state news agency Anadolu.

Turkey had returned fire on Friday after Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) shelled a Turkish border police station from hills 1km from the US observation post in Syria, he said.

The Pentagon said an explosion occurred “within a few hundred meters” of a US position near the Syrian town of Kobani, and warned that the US was prepared to meet aggression with “immediate defensive action.”

US officials have said the outpost has been vacated after coming under fire.

A number of US troops left their post, but a large base in the town has not been affected by the shelling, they said.

“All necessary precautions were taken so as not to damage the US post,” Akar said.

The Turkish forces had stopped firing “as a precaution” after the Americans contacted them, he said.

“Anyway, the necessary coordinations are being conducted between our command centers and the Americans,” Akar added.

US troops last week pulled back from positions along the Turkey-Syria border ahead of a Turkish operation against Kurdish militants in Syria. The YPG was a close ally of the US in its fight against the Islamic State group, but is seen by Ankara as a “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

Turkish forces have taken control of the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, which has been a focus of its operation, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.

However, a YPG official said that “Ras al-Ain is still resisting and clashes are ongoing.”

Kurdish fighters had temporarily pulled back from the town before launching a counter-offensive, the official said.

Bombardment by Turkish forces yesterday killed 10 civilians, taking to 28 the civilian death toll from the offensive now its fourth day, a monitor said.

At least seven were killed in airstrikes and shelling around Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Pentagon officials on Friday denied the US was abandoning its Kurdish allies in the face of the Turkish offensive.

“We have not abandoned the Kurds. Let me be clear about that,” US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters. “We have not abandoned them. Nobody green-lighted this operation by Turkey — just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.”

Washington is “greatly disappointed” by the Turkish incursion, Esper told a news conference.

He said it has badly damaged already frayed relations with Turkey, a NATO ally ousted from a Pentagon fighter program in July for refusing to drop its purchase of a Russian air defense system.

Additional reporting by AP

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