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Turkey denies attacking US troops in northeastern Syria

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the incident on Friday was “self-defence” as its troops had been targeted by mortars fired by YPG fighters located near a US observation post.

SNS | New Delhi |

Ankara on Saturday denied that Turkish Army had launched attacks on US Special Forces deployed in northeastern Syria, as it was earlier claimed by the Pentagon.

At a press conference Turkey’s Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar said, “Attacking US forces is out of the question. There’s the necessary coordination between our forces and the Americans.” The press conference was held at the military central command in Sanliurfa, about 50 m from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Pentagon sources told Efe news on Friday night that Turkish artillery fire had landed near the US base near the Syrian border city of Kobane.

Stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, Turkey aims to carve out a so-called safe zone that will extend about 32 km into northern Syria, stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border.

In the operation named “Peace Spring” the Turkish Army and allied factions of the Free Syrian Army, armed militias opposed to President Bashar Al Assad, began the incursion into northern Syria on Wednesday.

They are fighting against the YPG, officially the People’s Protection Units, which controls most of the region of northern Syria.

The YPG is the largest Kurdish militia in the region and was Washington’s key ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror organization.

Ankara considers YPG a terrorist organization indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group fighting against the Turkish state in eastern Turkey.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the incident on Friday was “self-defence” as its troops had been targeted by mortars fired by YPG fighters located near a US observation post.

Those mortars allegedly hit Turkish city of Suruc, which is facing Kobane on the other side of the border.

In a statement earlier on Friday, the US Department of Defence said: “US troops in the vicinity of Kobani came under artillery fire from Turkish positions at approximately 9 p.m.

“The United States remains opposed to the Turkish military move into Syria and especially objects to Turkish operations outside the Security Mechanism zone and in areas where the Turks know US forces are present.”

On Saturday, there were no reports of bombings around the Kobane area, while the Turkish air strikes concentrated in the Syrian city of Ras al-Ayn, one of the points where the Turkish offensive began.

In that area, there have been constant clashes between Syrian rebel militias and members of the YPG.

The Turkish Army claimed on Saturday to have “neutralized” 415 YPG fighters, which means they have been wounded, killed or captured.

They also claimed to have already seized control on 14 towns around Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad.

According to the UN more than 100,000 people have fled their homes since the offensive began on Wednesday. But aid groups have said that as many as 450,000 people could be forced to move.

More than 50 people, including civilians, have been killed as the Turkish offensive in Syria, which was launched by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at pushing the Kurdish forces away from its border, entered its third day on Friday.

The Kurdish Red Crescent had said there had been 11 confirmed civilian deaths so far and 28 serious injuries, mostly in Ras al-Ain and another border town, Qamishli, reported the BBC.

Earlier, on Thursday, the UN Security Council discussed the situation at the request of its current five EU members – the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland – who are calling for Turkey to halt its military offensive.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “deep concern” at the rising violence.