News / Middle East

Kurds Drive Islamist Militants from More of Northeast Syria

FILE - An officer of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) stands guard near the Syrian-Iraq border.
FILE - An officer of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) stands guard near the Syrian-Iraq border.
Reuters
Syrian Kurdish fighters have captured more territory from Islamist rebels in northeastern Syria, a Kurdish militant group said on Monday, tightening their grip on an area where they have been setting up autonomous rule.
 
The Kurds said they had routed their rivals in three days of battles, while Islamist sources spoke of a tactical retreat.
 
Syria, tugged by various regional conflicts, has frayed into a patchwork of warring ethnic and sectarian pockets, tilting the balance of power in some of its Middle Eastern neighbors.
 
Kurdish assertiveness has posed a quandary for Ankara as it tries to make peace on its own soil with militants from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a rebel group which has fought for greater Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.
 
Turkey fears a power grab by Kurdish militias in Syria may embolden the PKK militants. But it is also uneasy about swaths of territory on its border falling to al-Qaida-linked rebels.
 
Redur Xelil, spokesman for the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said Kurdish militias had seized the city of Ras al-Ain and all its surrounding villages.
 
Ras al-Ain is in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakah bordering Iraq and Turkey. Its population is 70 percent Kurdish and 30 percent Arab.
 
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said the Kurds had seized at least 19 towns in the area.
 
Majority Sunni Arab Muslims have led the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, in which Kurds have played an ambivalent role, but rebels are also fighting among themselves.
 
Islamist militants have clashed with more moderate groups in mostly rebel-held northern Syria, and have battled Kurds in northeastern border areas for months.
 
Xelil said the latest Kurdish advance had followed fierce fighting in the past three days. “This was not a retreat, they [the Islamists] were defeated,” he told Reuters by telephone.
 
“We did this because they were a direct threat to Kurdish regions. There were daily attacks from their side.”
 
A source linked to the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front said the Islamists had withdrawn without a fight, citing problems in convincing enough militant units to stay on the frontline.
 
The Islamists are falling back to Tel Abyad, another northern town bordering Turkey, and rebel sources reported clashes with the Kurds in that area as well.
 
Xelil said Kurdish fighters would press on to Tel Abyad.
 
“As long as they are there they are still threatening our areas. We will retake all the territory between Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain,” he said.
 
Turkish officials say they have had meetings with Syrian Kurdish groups, expressing willingness to work with them if they remain opposed to Assad, promise not to seek autonomy through violence or before Syria's wider conflict is resolved, and  pose no threat to Turkey's own security.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs