Last updated: 25 October, 2016

Syrian Kurds say Turkish attacks prevent Raqqa recapture

A Syrian Kurd leader in France on Tuesday accused Turkey of waging attacks on Kurdish forces trying to recapture Raqa, the Islamic State group stronghold in Syria.

“With its artillery and aircraft, the Turkish army is taking advantage of the media and international community’s focus on Mosul to massively attack Syrian Kurds to stop them taking Raqa,” Khaled Issa told a news conference in Paris.

Iraqi forces have been advancing towards the northern city of Mosul in a major operation to retake it from the IS jihadists.

Issa, the representative of Syrian Kurds in France, said that in their preparations to retake Raqa, the US-backed Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had “liberated” several villages occupied by the jihadists to the northeast of the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo.

“If Turkish artillery and aircraft are heavily bombing SDF positions in this zone… it is partly to stop them (SDF) cutting Daesh supply lines to Raqa and partly to allow Turkey to keep control of 70 kilometres (40 miles) of its border with Syria,” he said, using another name for the Islamic State.

“We cannot go and fight in Raqa when the Turkish army is bombing us,” he said.

Accusing the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “rushing to Daesh’s rescue,” Issa called on France and other permanent members of the UN Security Council “to put an end to Erdogan’s irresponsible actions which hamper the fight against Daesh”.

The Turkish military has carried out a number of raids against Kurdish militia targets in northern Syria in recent days.

Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdish Democratic Union (PYD) as terror groups linked to Turkey’s banned insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

It is vehemently opposed to the creation of an autonomous Kurdish region on its border in northern Syria.

Ankara has clashed with Washington over the Syrian Kurd fighters, with the US support for the groups causing friction between the two NATO allies.