Erdogan says Turkey to attack Kurdish militants with tanks, soldiers

  • The Russian envoy noted that he called on Turkey to show restraint
  • Teacher, child killed when mortar bombs hit Turkey on Monday
  • Erdogan said the operations could involve ground forces

ANKARA, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Turkey will attack militants with tanks and soldiers as soon as possible, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, signaling a possible ground offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria after growing the retaliatory strikes on the Syrian border.

His comments came as Turkish artillery continued to bombard Kurdish bases and other targets near the Syrian towns of Tal Rifaat and Kobani, two Syrian military sources told Reuters.

“For days we have been torturing terrorists with our planes, cannons and guns,” Erdogan said in a speech in northeastern Turkey. “God willing, we will root out all of them as soon as possible, together with our tanks, our soldiers.”

He previously said the operations would not be limited to an air campaign and could involve ground forces. Turkey has conducted several major military operations against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Islamic State militants in northern Syria in recent years.

On Monday, Turkey said the YPG killed two people in mortar attacks from northern Syria, following Turkish air operations against the militia over the weekend and a deadly bomb attack. in Istanbul last week.

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The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said 15 civilians and fighters were killed in Turkish strikes in recent days.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar vowed to continue operations against the militants, renewing calls for NATO ally Washington to stop supporting Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara calls a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“We tell all our partners, especially the United States, at every level, that the YPG is equal to the PKK and continue our demand that they stop all kinds of support for terrorists,” Akar said. to a parliamentary commission in a speech.

A child and a teacher were killed and six people were injured on Monday when mortar bombs hit a border area in Turkey’s Gaziantep province. Its armed forces responded to jets that again hit targets in Syria, a senior security official said.

‘SERIOUS CONCERNS’

A US State Department spokesman said Washington had communicated its serious concerns to Ankara about the impact of the escalation on the cause of the fight against Islamic State.

“We urge Turkey against such operations, just as we urge our partners in Syria against attacks or escalation,” the spokesman said in emailed responses to questions.

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A spokesman for the US National Security Agency told Reuters on background that the US government is opposed to any military action that destabilizes the situation in Syria.

The United States has formed an alliance with the YPG-led SDF in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, sparking a deep conflict with Turkey.

Moscow, which is allied with Damascus, also called on Turkey to show restraint in its use of “excessive” military force in Syria and keep tensions from escalating, Russian news agencies quoted a Russian envoy to Syria as saying saying

During an official visit to Turkey on Tuesday, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told reporters that Berlin stands firmly by Ankara’s side when it comes to fighting terrorism, but warned that the reaction must be rational.

“We stand with Turkey in the investigation of this terrorist attack and in the fight against terrorism. (…) but we also think that the reaction should be reasonable and in line with people’s rights and not harm civilians .”

Turkey said its warplanes destroyed 89 targets in Syria and Iraq on Sunday, with 184 militants killed in operations targeting the YPG and PKK on Sunday and Monday.

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Ankara said its weekend operation was in retaliation for a bomb attack in an Istanbul last week that killed six people, which authorities blamed on militants. No one has claimed responsibility and the PKK and SDF have denied involvement.

The bombing has sparked memories of violence ahead of a tense 2015 election, and could lead to another security-focused campaign for Erdogan, ahead of tight elections next June.

An SDF spokesman said Turkish strikes over the weekend killed 11 civilians, one SDF fighter and two guards.

More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state that began in 1984. Turkey, the United States and the European Union have designated the PKK as a terrorist group.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman, Humeyra Pamuk in Washington, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne, Ece Toksabay in Ankara, Steve Holland in Washington and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Clarence Fernandez, Jonathan Oatis and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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