Turkish jets have struck the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia north of the embattled city of Aleppo, killing as many as 200 militia members, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported on Thursday. The Anadolu Agency, quoting military officials, said the raids were carried out late last night, attacking 18 targets in the Maarraat Umm Hawsh region in northern Syria.
Between 160 and 200 militia fighters were killed in the raid. The targets hit were in areas that the Syrian forces had recently taken over as they pressed ahead with their campaign to drive Islamic State militants from areas north of Aleppo.
The Syrian Kurdish force has been an ongoing source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and the United States.
The US considers the militia group, known as the People’s Protection Units or YPG, to be the most effective force in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
Turkey says the group is an extension of its own outlawed Kurdish militants who have carried out a series of deadly attacks in Turkey over the past year and considers it to be a terrorist organisation.
Ankara has grown increasingly wary as the YPG succeeded in securing large swaths of territory along the Syrian-Turkish border.
In August, Turkey sent troops and tanks into northern Syria to help Syrian opposition forces drive the Islamic State group away from an area bordering Turkey and to curb the Syrian Kurdish forces’ territorial expansion.
The Turkish attack came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country would not “wait for terrorists to come and attack” but would go after them before they have the chance to strike.
Anadolu said the 18 Syrian Kurdish targets hit included nine buildings used as headquarters, meetings points, shelters or arms depots as well as five vehicles.