Al-Qaeda, allies pound Kurdish city of Afrin with heavy weapons, civilian casualties reported

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Rebel fighters fire mortar shells on Syrian army positions near Mount al-Akrad in Latakia. File photo

ARA News 

AFRIN – Syrian Islamist rebels pounded the Kurdish city of Afrin in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo with heavy weapons, causing casualties among civilians, including women and children, local sources reported on Saturday. 

The Islamist groups led by the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda branch in Syria, have been indiscriminately bombing Afrin since Friday-midnight, from their positions in Azaz city in northern Aleppo.

Speaking to ARA News in Afrin, media activist Mohammed Rashad said that Islamist rebel groups bombed several villages in the vicinity of Afrin, in response to their heavy losses during fighting against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the northern suburbs of Aleppo.

The SDF includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) along with allied Arab and Christian groups. The SDF, which is supported by the United States, is mainly designated to fight Islamists including al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Syria. 

“Islamist rebels also targeted the village of Qatama [administratively linked to Sherran township] in Afrin suburbs adjacent to the border town of Azaz,” Rashad reported, pointing out that more than 10 shells hit residential buildings in Qatama on Saturday. 

At least nine civilians, mostly women and children, have been killed and dozens others injured in Saturday’s attacks, according to medical sources that spoke to ARA News on condition of anonymity.

Islamist groups also bombed the villages of Bufalun near Shirawa township and Qastal Jindo. The death toll was not immediately clear. 

In this regard, Kurdish politician Pierre Rustam told ARA News: “Over the past two days, the Turkish army forces launched a number of shells on Kurdish controlled areas, including Afrin and Tel Abyad [Gire Spi] on the borderline with Turkey.”

“Meetings have been held in the Turkish city of Gaziantep between leaders of the opposition factions and Turkish army leadership in order to open fighting fronts against the Kurds in Aleppo province. Mobilizing Turkish forces on the border seems to be a sign for this plan,” he said. 

“Turkish authorities have been inciting Syrian Kurds to respond militarily to its aggression in order to provide an argument for the international community that its national security is at risk, and therefore it has a legitimate right to access deeply inside Syrian territory and impose a buffer zone in northern Syriaــ which is rejected by both US and Russia,” Rustam argued. 

On the other hand, “Turkey appears to push Islamist rebels, especially the radical groups, to engage in battle with the Kurds in a bid to put more pressure on the US to stop supporting the YPG forces, especially after Washington’s recent remarks of excluding the Democratic Union Party (PYD) from being a terrorist group,” the Kurdish politician told ARA News.

“Turkey currently aims to foil the Kurdish political project in Rojava [Syrian Kurdistan],” Rustam concluded.

Heavy fighting erupted between Islamist rebel groups and the SDF forces a few days ago in the towns of Tal Rifaat and Ain Daqna in the northern suburbs of Aleppo, during which Islamists have incurred significant losses in manpower and equipment, where over 50 militants were killed, while 11 fighters from the SDF forces lost their lives in the clashes.

Reporting by: Jiwan Saman

Source: ARA News

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