News / Middle East

Syria's Kurds Find Strategy Against Jihadist Bombings Elusive

Kurdish female members of the Popular Protection Units check identifications of Kurdish men on a motorbike at a check point near the northeastern city of Qamishli, Syria, March 3, 2013.
Kurdish female members of the Popular Protection Units check identifications of Kurdish men on a motorbike at a check point near the northeastern city of Qamishli, Syria, March 3, 2013.
In the past few weeks, Kurdish militias have cleared a growing number of towns in northeast Syria of al-Qaida-affiliated groups. But now they are trying to combat a jihadist bombing campaign.

Kurds in Qamishli, the biggest town in Syria’s Kurdish-dominated northeast, are relieved to have been liberated from a months-long jihadist reign of terror consisting of kidnappings for ransom and slayings.

Sitting with neighbors outside a shop in the downtown Souk district of Qamishli, 57-year-old Mikhtar said people felt a lot safer.     

“Before, there was a lot of fear because of the kidnapping. The main thing was the kidnapping and a lot of people were kidnapped for ransom and some of them never returned back,” he said.

But, while militiamen in the People’s Defense Units, or YPG, prove increasingly successful against al-Qaida affiliates on the battlefield, they are at a loss about how to combat a burgeoning jihadist car and suicide bombing campaign.

A view of the damage from a suicide bombing at the Kurdish Internal Security Forces Center (Asayish) at the Suez Canal neighborhood in Qamishli, Syria, Nov. 23, 2013.A view of the damage from a suicide bombing at the Kurdish Internal Security Forces Center (Asayish) at the Suez Canal neighborhood in Qamishli, Syria, Nov. 23, 2013.
x
A view of the damage from a suicide bombing at the Kurdish Internal Security Forces Center (Asayish) at the Suez Canal neighborhood in Qamishli, Syria, Nov. 23, 2013.
A view of the damage from a suicide bombing at the Kurdish Internal Security Forces Center (Asayish) at the Suez Canal neighborhood in Qamishli, Syria, Nov. 23, 2013.
Since the summer in Syria, there have been 39 bombings, including two suicide attacks. At least 30 people have been killed and dozens wounded. Several bombings have been in the town of Kobani near the Turkish border. In the latest attack on November 11, a suicide bomber exploded a large device in a truck outside the offices of the Kurdish Red Crescent killing 11 people, including a nurse and several children.

YPG commander Giwan Ibrahim feared more bombings are to come. And he said there was little he could do to stop them.

“We have got no experience or technology so we use primitive ways to protect ourselves at the checking-points. I mean we don’t use any technology. So that is one of the things making it more difficult to control,” he said.

At checkpoints outside Kurdish-controlled towns and villages, it is difficult for untrained defense volunteers to identify threats, such as knowing where to look for bombs in cargoes of fruit and vegetables.

Ibrahim said it was also difficult to distinguish combatants and non-combatants, or even tell the difference between Kurds and Arabs without engaging in an unwanted form of racial profiling.

“Arab and Kurd are very similar -- in dress, in body language even in the olive skin so it very easy for Arabs to come in or out,” he said.

Kurdish security officials said the bombers were not Syrian but were jihadists from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia and Iraq. And they were not only making improvised bombs from artillery shells and mines, but also using C4 plastic explosives and ammonium nitrate, a specialty of Iraq’s al-Qaida group.

They were also equipped with remote-controlled technology. Ibrahim claimed Turkish border guards allowed jihadists to cross, an accusation Turkey’s prime minister denied.

“The Kurdish villages are just a few meters away from the Turkish border so anyone can come from the Turkish border and do whatever they want and the Turkish guards allow anybody to get in,” he said.

The Kurds have asked the West for technology to help them combat the jihadist bombing campaign. But with Turkey angry over a self-rule declaration by the Kurds earlier this month, assistance is not likely to be forthcoming.

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid