Turkey claims capture of key Syrian border town as offensive continues

Turkey claims capture of key Syrian border town as offensive continues

Turkish forces claimed to have taken control of a key Syrian border town Saturday as their assault against Kurdish fighters in the region continued.The Turkish Defence Ministry said that it had seized Ras al-Ayn as part of the operation, code-named ‘Peace Spring,’ which began Wednesday.NBC News has been unable to independently verify the claim.The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) denied the town had been captured and appeared to be holding out in some areas, the Associated Press reported.The capture of the town would represent Ankara’s most significant gain since President Donald Trump said he had decided to pull U.S. troops back from the area to clear the way for Turkish forces.The move faced widespread criticism, which was only likely to intensify after U.S. troops stationed in the region came under artillery fire from Turkish forces late Friday.An explosion occurred within a few hundred yards outside a security zone known by the Turks to have U.S. forces present, Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt, director of Defense Press Operations, told NBC News.No American troops were injured in the incident, near Kobani in northeastern Syria.The U.S. is now warning Turkey to avoid any actions that could result in “immediate defensive action,” DeWalt said.Turkish troops are fighting the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group by the United States.But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been crucial U.S. allies in the war on the Islamic State militant group.Trump’s decision to pull back troops prompted a wave of criticism from the international community, as well as from Republicans and Democrats, with many accusing the Trump administration of abandoning its Kurdish allies.Linda GivetashLinda Givetash is a reporter based in London. She previously worked for The Canadian Press in Vancouver and Nation Media in Uganda. Aziz Akyavas , Mac William Bishop, Mosheh Gains and Associated Press contributed.
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