Turkey may have unwittingly supplied missiles to Kurdish opponents

17:36 • 09.02.18



Turkey has long accused the United States of supporting terrorism by providing arms to a Kurdish militia in northern Syria.


But the group says many of its weapons - including anti-tank missiles - have come from other sources, Turkey among them.

That militia, the People's Protection Units (YPG), has proven a formidable enemy for the Turkish military, which launched an operation against it near the Syrian city of Afrin three weeks ago.


One of the most effective weapons in the YPG’s arsenal has been anti-tank missiles, which they have employed in hit-and-run attacks, The National reports.


"Most of the weapons that we have, came originally as support from the Turkish army to these groups of mercenaries," YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told The National, referring to Syrian Arab rebel groups that receive support from Turkey.


"We got the majority of the missiles we have from the black market in Idlib, Azaz, Al Bab and Jarablus," Mr Mahmoud said, naming areas of Syria under the control of those groups.


"We got these weapons even though Afrin is besieged by Turkey from three directions."


YPG weaponry has been a source of friction between Turkey and the US since the Americans began arming the group more than two years ago. While Turkey views the YPG as terrorists on account of its links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish militia that has been at war with the Turkish government since the 1980s, the group also makes up the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the US’s chief proxy force in the battle against ISIL in Syria.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors Syria’s multifaceted civil war, has recorded the deaths of at least 22 Turkish soldiers since the operation began, including five in a single YPG attack, likely using such a missile, against a tank on February 3.


One of the Turkish-backed Arab militias participating in the offensive in Afrin also claimed to have intercepted a shipment of anti-tank missiles bound for the YPG from Idlib, a rebel-controlled province to the west of Afrin.


"In general the YPG in Afrin have been able to acquire Konkurs (Russian-made anti-tank missiles)," said Roa Komar, an independent Middle East analyst based in the US. "It’s not entirely clear where they’re getting them from. They’re pretty common in Syria in general. There have been some videos where they don’t show which systems are being used."


 

 





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