News / Middle East

Kurds Seize Town on Syrian-Turkish Border

Members of Kurdish Popular Protection Units and Free Syrian Army fighters stand guard at a check point, Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Feb. 27, 2013.
Members of Kurdish Popular Protection Units and Free Syrian Army fighters stand guard at a check point, Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Feb. 27, 2013.
Reuters
A Syrian Kurdish party with links to Kurdish militants in Turkey has seized control of a Syrian town on the Turkish border after days of clashes with Islamist fighters, the Turkish military said.
 
The capture of Ras al-Ain by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) will heighten Ankara's fears the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria could embolden homegrown militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is fighting for autonomy in Turkey.
 
Turkey's foreign minister voiced concern at the spillover of violence from the war in its southern neighbor and called again on the United Nations Security Council, which has yet to come to a consensus over Syria, to act.
 
In a statement late on Wednesday, the military said the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain had fallen under the control of the PYD, which it described as a "separatist terrorist organization." Fighting in the town had stopped, it said.
 
Turkish troops had shot at PYD fighters in Syria in accordance with their rules of engagement, after two rocket-propelled grenades fired from Syria struck a border post on the Turkish side of the frontier.
 
The return fire was the second time in as many days the military had answered in kind. Stray bullets from Syria struck the police headquarters and several homes in the adjacent Turkish town of Ceylanpinar on Tuesday.
 
A Turkish citizen was killed and a 15-year-old boy seriously wounded by the stray fire, in the most serious spillover of violence into Turkey from Syria in weeks. Earlier officials said the boy had died of his wounds but later said he was still in a critical condition and had been moved to Ankara.
 
The military said it had strengthened security along that part of the border with armored vehicles.
 
The clashes between Kurdish fighters, who want an autonomous region within Syria, and Islamist Arab fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front started on Tuesday after Nusra fighters attacked a Kurdish patrol, according to an anti-government Syrian activist group.
 
Clashes between Kurds affiliated with the PYD, and Syrian and foreign fighters opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have erupted since Kurds began asserting control over parts of the northeast from late last year.
 
Peace process
 
Turkey, with its own large Kurdish minority, has been watching closely, concerned a Kurdish power grab to the south could strengthen PKK militants in Turkey with whom Ankara has embarked on a peace process.
 
Developments in Syria could threaten that process, which is already under pressure amid an increase in militant activity in Turkey.
 
Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party, the BDP, on Wednesday criticized Ankara's Syria policy and said it worked against peace efforts with Turkey's Kurds.
 
Nihat Ali Ozcan, an expert on the PKK and security at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) think-tank, said the events in Syria would likely embolden the PKK.
 
"Firstly, there will be a psychological effect, and as the PKK watches these developments they will make more maximalist demands from the government. They will sit down to negotiations with the government as a much stronger actor," Ozcan said.
 
"The PKK has gained an important resource in the area, it has gained depth and will also make economic gains. This is good news for the PKK," he said.
 
Speaking in Ankara on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed concern over the events along the border.
 
"This illustrates a striking picture of how much the crisis in Syria can affect us and our citizens," state-run broadcaster TRT quoted Davutoglu as saying.
 
"Once again we call upon the international community ... if the U.N. Security Council is to do the job it is required to do, then the moment is now," he said.
 
Turkey, one of Assad's most vocal critics and biggest backers of the Syrian rebels, has criticized the U.N. Security Council for failing to adopt a united stance on the conflict.
 
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was expected to meet President Abdullah Gul and the military's Chief of General Staff Necdet Ozel on Thursday and the latest developments in Syria were likely to feature high on the agenda.
 
Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, is reluctant to act unilaterally in Syria although it has scrambled warplanes along the border as gunfire and shelling hit its soil. Turkey hosts around 500,000 Syrian refugees.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More