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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora