Turkish jets carried out 26 airstrikes on 18 Syrian Kurdish militia YPG targets in northern Syria, killing 160 to 200 fighters, the Turkish army said on October 20, Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Turkey and the US remain divided over how to deal with the YPG as the anti-Islamic State coalition is preparing for an operation to retake the town of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the jihadist group in Syria. The US has been supporting the Kurdish group as it has proved to be the most effective force in the fight against the extremists in Syria. Turkey, however, sees it as a terrorist organisation because of its link to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984.
Hours before the airstrikes in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey could act alone in rooting out its enemies abroad, according to Reuters.
Turkish military also said on October 20 that 21 PKK militants were killed in the Turkish southeastern province of Hakkari. Violence in Turkey's southeast provinces is escalating at a time when the government is struggling to contain the damages from the failed July 15 coup attempt and the Turkish military is conducting a large operation in northern Syria against Islamic State. The other objective of the military operation – codenamed Euphrates Shield – is to stop the advance of YPG militia. Ankara sees the Kurds in Syria as a growing threat as the militants recapture territory from IS along the Syria-Turkey border.
The US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter will pay a visit to Turkey on October 21 as part of his Middle East tour. Along with the military operation in Syria, Turkey is also pushing for an active role in the operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul, in coordination of the US-led coalition forces. Tensions between Ankara and Baghdad have escalated over the Turkish military’s presence at a camp near Mosul.