Turkey Arrests Kurdish Fighters for Responding to Ankara’s Invasion of Syria’s Afrin

FILE - In this March 24, 2018 file photo, Turkish soldiers atop an armored personnel carrier secure the streets of the northwestern city of Afrin, Syria, during a Turkish government-organized media tour into northern Syria. Turkey is growing long-term roots in its northern Syrian enclave, nearly two years after its …
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File

Turkish authorities continue to arrest members of the U.S.-allied Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) for responding to Ankara’s invasion of the predominantly Kurdish city of Afrin in northern Syria.

On Thursday, Turkey announced the detention of two YPG fighters over the killing of two Turkish soldiers during Ankara’s Afrin campaign, dubbed Operation Oliver Branch.
Early this year, the U.S.-allied YPG, the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party that controls large swathes of northern Syria attempted to repel the Turkish offensive in Syrian Kurdish region of Afrin, to no avail.

In March, Afrin fell to Turkey. Since then, Human Rights Watch asserted that Turkey-allied Free Syrian Army (FSA) are seizing, looting, and destroying YPG property in Afrin.

A United Nations official, echoing various activists, also accused Turkey of engaging in “ethnic cleansing” in Afrin.

Ankara has long accused the YPG of being an affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) terrorist group, but Turkey’s NATO ally the United States continues to lend support fo the Kurdish fighters as part of the anti-Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) offensive.

Turkey’s Daily Sabah reported on Thursday:

Authorities announced yesterday that two members of the terrorist group the People’s Protection Units (YPG) were captured in Syria over the killing of two Turkish soldiers and brought to Turkey. With the latest arrests, the number of suspects captured in connection with the killings rose to 11.

Earlier this month, nine YPG members were brought to Hatay, a Turkish province bordering Syria, and were remanded in custody, after an operation by the National Intelligence Directorate (MİT). A court in Hatay ordered the arrest of the two suspects identified with their initials as R.B.A. and R.H.M.

Turkey accused the YPG fighters of killing Lt. Oguz Kaan Usta and Sgt. Mehmet Muratdagi in January during Operation Olive Branch.

“After killing him, the suspects took the lieutenant’s body, which was recovered 58 days later,” the Daily Sabah noted, adding that a detained PKK terrorist assisted Turkish authorities in identifying the YPG fighters.

Citing its relationship with Turkey, the United States refused to help the YPG fight off Ankara’s operation in Afrin despite the Kurdish fighters’ support for the American military campaign against ISIS.

In June, the United States reached an agreement with Turkey to withdraw the YPG from Syria’s Manbij region, arguing that the move would “reduce tensions.”

U.S. President Donald Trump told reports on Wednesday his administration “did not forget” thousands of Kurds have paid the ultimate price fighting ISIS.

Referring to the future of Kurdish-U.S. relationship following the full collapse of the Islamic State, he declared, “I want to help them. They fought with us, they died with us, we lost tens of thousands of Kurds fighting ISIS. … They’re great people, and we have not forgotten, I don’t forget.”

Dictator Bashar al-Assad has indicated he is willing to negotiate with the Kurds over their demands of autonomy within Syria’s borders.

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