Syrian Kurds charge Turkey planning Syria invasion, deny attack

Turkey is seeking to use the Ankara bombing this week as a pretext to launch strikes and a ground operation against the main Kurdish militia in Syria, a spokesman for the group charged on Friday, denying any involvement in the attack.

"The first thing they did after the attack was to blame us. They are inventing a pretext as they are seeking to enter Rojava," Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the Kurdish militia, told the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency. Rojava is what the Kurds call northern Syria.

While Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed that US Secretary of State John Kerry told him the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) "cannot be trusted," Xelil denied there was any change in US policy towards the Kurds.

The US has been backing the YPG's advances against the Islamic State extremist group in eastern Syria since 2014 and this has shown no sign of abating.

Turkey has been heavily shelling YPG positions since the attack. The Kurds have claimed at least two civilians were killed in the strikes, which intensified on Friday morning.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, described the Turkish shelling as "the heaviest ever, lasting for seven hours" in areas of Aleppo province.

Turkey is a staunch backer of Syrian rebels, who are currently collapsing in Aleppo in the face of intense Russian airstrikes. In the north of the province, near the key town of Azaz close to the Turkish border, the Kurds have seized fresh territory.

Despite the accusations from Ankara about alleged YPG involvement in the Ankara attack which killed 28 people, mostly from the military, the US has continued to back the YPG's advance against Islamic State near the Iraq border.

Turkey has said a ground operation is needed in Syria, but that it would require the US being on board.

Germany's Spiegel news magazine ran a report saying that NATO has cautioned member Turkey that if it runs into trouble with Russia during a ground operation in Syria, then the alliance would not be able to get involved.

The observatory this week said Turkey allowed hundreds of rebel fighters into the Azaz area in northern Aleppo.

Turkey has so far arrested 17 people in connection with the Ankara bombing and insists the YPG, with the collusion of the Syrian government, carried out the attack.

Ankara continues to fight the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has ties to the YPG, on its own territory, after a two-year ceasefire broke down last year.

Last update: Fri, 19/02/2016 - 13:00

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