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Turkish airstrikes kill several Kurdish fighters in Iraq, Syria

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) and Kurdish police, known as the Asayish, visit the site of Turkish airstrikes on Tuesday (April 25). Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Al-Malikiyah, Al-Hasakah Governorate, Syria Apr 25, 2017, 06.16 PM (IST)

Turkey killed more than a dozen Kurdish militants in a series of air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

The latest attack on Kurdish fighters may ignite tensions with the United States, who view Kurdish militias as a vital cog in their fight to exterminate Islamic State from the region.

CNN quoted a Peshmerga ministry spokesperson as saying that the dawn attack in west of Mosul in norther Iraq left five of their fighters dead. 

In northern Syria, Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) -- who are leading the offensive against IS stronghold Raqa -- said they had lost 20 of its fighters during Turkey latest offensive.

But Turkey remains unwavering in its promise to launch attacks against any group that is linked with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The PKK is a left-wing political group that has for decades demanded a separate state for Kurds.

The outfit, mainly active in southeast Turkey, has been a red rag to Istanbul as they have allegedly carried out several attacks in Turkey.

Turkish military also released a statement confirming that the dawn strikes had "destroyed" shelter areas, ammunition warehouses and PKK communications facilities.

It said 40 PKK fighters were "neutralised" in Iraq and around 30 in Syria.

The bombardment near the Syrian city of Al-Malikiyah saw "dozens of simultaneous air strikes" overnight on YPG positions including a media centre, a monitoring group said.

The strikes killed three media officers and 15 YPG fighters, one of the highest death tolls from Turkish air raids on Kurdish militia, said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Iraq condemns attacks

Baghdad condemned a "violation of international law and Iraqi sovereignty".

"The Iraqi government condemns and rejects the strikes carried out by Turkish aircraft on Iraqi territory," government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said.

The strikes underlined the complexities of the battlefields in Iraq and Syria, where twin US-backed offensives are seeking to dislodge IS from its last major urban strongholds.

'Problems and tensions' 

Ankara has bombed the YPG in northern Syria for months, calling it a "terrorist" group because of its ties to the PKK, which has been waging a deadly insurgency against Turkey since 1984.

While the air raids on Syria appeared to hit their intended targets, the bombardment in Iraq instead killed members of Kurdish security forces typically allied with Ankara.

The peshmerga ministry in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish government said the raids killed five of its fighters and one intelligence officer.

Turkey appeared to have been targeting a minority Yazidi militia allied with the PKK and based in the northwestern region of Sinjar.

The peshmerga denounced the strike as "unacceptable" but focused blame on PKK-affiliated groups.

"These problems and tensions are all because of the PKK's presence," it said, accusing the PKK and its affiliates of refusing to withdraw from the Sinjar area.

Multiple offensives 

The peshmerga have been instrumental in the battle against IS in northern Iraq though have stepped back in recent weeks as Iraqi forces advance against IS in Mosul.

Iraqi forces on Tuesday said they had retaken full control of Tenek, one of west Mosul's largest neighbourhoods.

Eastern Mosul was recaptured in January and a push on the western half launched the following month has made steady progress despite fierce resistance.

IS is facing multiple offensives across Syria and Iraq -- often led by governments or forces that otherwise bitterly oppose each other.

Turkey launched an unprecedented cross-border operation into Syria in August to fight IS and to keep the YPG in check.

The YPG makes up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters taking on IS in Syria.

After chipping away at IS territory across the north, the SDF is now locked fighting the jihadists inside Tabqa, a key town on the Euphrates River.

Clashes continued inside south and west Tabqa on Tuesday, backed by heavy US-led air strikes overnight, the Observatory said.

The SDF entered the town on Monday as part of its offensive on Raqa, Syrian heart of the jihadists' self-styled "caliphate" since 2014.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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