BEIRUT (Reuters) - A Syrian Kurdish militia accused Turkish forces on Tuesday of “aggression and escalation” in the Afrin region, which it controls, on Syria’s northwestern border with Turkey.
Ankara has sent forces into areas of Syria adjacent to Afrin to oppose the influence of the YPG militia, which it sees as a branch of the PKK movement that has waged a three-decade insurgency inside Turkey.
The YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State with the help of a U.S.-led coalition.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last week that Turkey needed to “cleanse Afrin” of the YPG. On Monday, Ankara accused it of attacking an observation post in Idlib province.
In an apparent response to that charge, the YPG said in a statement that Turkey was “spreading several rumours about our forces attacking Turkish lands”.
It said Turkey had fired artillery and machine guns at several villages in Afrin on Monday.
Turkey backed an incursion into a part of Syria immediately east of Afrin last year in support of anti-government Syrian rebel factions, which led to frequent clashes with the YPG.
Last month, Ankara also sent some troops into Idlib, south and west of Afrin, as part of a deal it has agreed with Russia and Iran to set up so-called “de-escalation zones” to reduce fighting.
Reporting By Ellen Francis; Writing by Angus McDowall