First Turkish soldier dies in Syria escalation

AFP , Friday 6 Oct 2023

A Turkish soldier has died of injuries sustained in a rocket attack in Syria, the defence ministry said on Friday, Ankara's first fatality since it launched a wave of air strikes this week.

A man walks close to a fire raging at the Zarba oil facility in al-Qahtaniyah in northeastern Syria
A man walks close to a fire raging at the Zarba oil facility in al-Qahtaniyah in northeastern Syria close to the Turkish border on October 5, 2023. AFP


Turkey stepped up cross-border air raids against Kurdish targets in northeastern Syria and northern Iraq in retaliation for a bombing in Ankara that injured two policemen on Sunday.

A branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -- listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies -- claimed responsibility for the first such attack in Ankara since 2016.

The defence ministry said the soldier was wounded in a missile strike on a Turkish military base in the northern Syrian town of Dabiq.

Turkey concluded that the two assailants who died in the Ankara attack came from Syria.

Turkey's operation in Syria is primarily targeting oil and other facilities controlled by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).

The group comprises an integral part of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) -- the Kurds' de facto army in the area -- that spearheaded the battle to dislodge Islamic State group jihadists from the region in 2019.

United States support for the YPG has strained Ankara's ties with Washington since the jihadists' defeat.

Those tensions spilled over when a US fighter jet shot down a Turkish combat drone on Thursday that was deemed to be a threat to US forces backing up the YPG.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman, Fahrettin Altun, on Friday called foreign support for the YPG "a colossal folly".

"End your misguided policy of supporting terror groups," Altun said.

The Turkish defence ministry on Friday also reported the death of a soldier who was wounded in Iraq on September 30.

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