WASHINGTON - A U.S.-based medical relief group operating in northeast Syria was targeted Sunday in a mortar attack allegedly by Turkish-backed Syrian militia fighters near the town of Tal Tamr, killing one medical worker and wounding at least one other.
David Eubank, founder of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), said the attack targeted his team as they were trying to enter the embattled town.
“Zau Seng was from Burma,” Eubank told local media after the attack, referring to a member of his team.
“He was hit in the head by shrapnel and in the back. He died right away.” Eubank said. The wounded volunteer is an Iraqi national, he added.
The attack occurred outside the northeastern Syrian town of Tal Tamr, where Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been fighting Turkish-backed Syrian militia fighters.
FBR, which is active in several conflict zones, has been involved in humanitarian work in northeast Syria since the beginning of Turkey’s military incursion in the region on October 9.
“Yesterday we took out two wounded [civilians] and today we were there. The Free Syrian Army [Syrian rebels] and the Turks were mortaring in front of us… this mortar came behind us and hit this vehicle,” Eubank, a U.S. Special Forces veteran, said on Sunday.
He noted that the wounded medics were immediately taken to a nearby hospital run by the Kurdish Red Crescent.
An official at the Kurdish Red Crescent confirmed the news to VOA.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t save one of them. His wounds were too deep,” said Kemal Dirbas of the Kurdish Red Crescent, adding that they “don’t have the right medical supplies and equipment for such cases.”
Dirbas added that FBR has done a “unique job to save civilians lives in this conflict.”
“The FBR has been doing a brave work in our region,” he said. “Its volunteers go to very dangerous places to rescue civilians caught in the fighting. They go to frontlines to carry out their humanitarian mission. They face death every day.”
Medical workers have been targeted since the beginning of the Turkish offensive into northeast Syria.
On October 14, a doctor with the Kurdish Red Crescent was reportedly killed in a Turkish airstrike near the town of Tel Abyad.
On the same day, at least four other medical workers were kidnapped by Turkish-backed fighters as they were on way to rescue wounded people, local news reported at the time.
Turkey defends its military operation in Syria and charges that its objective from the ongoing incursion is to remove Syrian Kurdish forces, considered as terrorists by Ankara, from the Turkey-Syria border area.
The United Nations says the Turkish offensive has forced more than 180,000 Syrian civilians to flee the border areas, including into neighboring Iraq.
Local doctors in northeast Syria say at least 206 civilians have died in the fighting, with another 1,086 people injured.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 850 medical workers have been killed throughout the country, medical groups estimate.