The Turkish military claims to have killed up to 200 Kurdish troops attached to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria. Although the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll much lower at 11, the action highlights the conflicting aims of NATO allies Turkey and the US in the region.
Although Ankara shares Washington's aim of combating Isis — also known as Isil and Islamic State — the Turks view the Kurdish YPG militias as allies of the PKK, with whom Turkey has been involved in a bloody conflict for decades. Ankara fears the Kurds are attempting to carve out their own state incorporating Kurd-majority regions of Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
The attack came after a speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Edrogan in which he said his nation would strike first "rather than wait for terrorists to come and attack", according to The Independent. Turkey even released videos it claimed were of the attacks, which took place early on 20 October 2016.
The SDF positions were in three villages — al-Hasiya, Um al-Qura and Um Hosh — north of Aleppo. Local Kurds admitted dozens had been killed. The US said the YPG who were attacked were not themselves backed by the US but were "close to and friendly with" forces allied to Washington, according to Reuters. Elements of the YPG are also involved in the battle for Mosul in neighbouring Iraq.
The Pentagon denied the attack would sour relations still further with its NATO ally following the attempted coup in Turkey of which President Erdogan has implied US involvement. "With respect to Turkey, our partnership is very strong in the counter-ISIL campaign." Defence Secretary Ash Carter told a news conference in Washington. "We're working with the Turks now very successfully to help them secure their border area."