Turkish drone strikes in Syria kill 4 US-backed fighters, wound 11 civilians, Kurdish group says

Turkish drone strikes in Syria kill 4 US-backed fighters, wound 11 civilians, Kurdish group says
The strikes come after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not hesitate to act against Kurdish groups in northern Syria if elections are held.
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Turkish drones struck positions around Qamishli eight times [Getty]

Turkish drone strikes in northeastern Syria on Friday evening killed four US-backed fighters and wounded 11 civilians, the Kurdish-led force said.

The strikes on areas held by the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after Turkey's president said his government won't hesitate to act against Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria if they proceed with plans to hold local elections. It accuses the groups of having links to outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.

The SDF said drone strikes hit its positions eight times as well as civilian homes and vehicles in and near the northern city of Qamishli. Such Turkish strikes are not uncommon in northeastern Syria.

The Kurdish Red Crescent said that as its paramedics were trying to reach the attacked areas, a Turkish strike hit one of its ambulances, putting it out of service. It said the attack occurred near the town of Amouda, west of Qamishli.

There was no immediate comment from Turkey.

The Kurdish-led autonomous administration that controls northern and eastern parts of Syria has announced plans to hold municipal elections 11 June. The vote to choose mayors will be held in the provinces of Hassakeh, Raqqa, Deir az-Zour and the eastern part of Aleppo province.

On Friday, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel posted on X that "we don't think that the conditions for such elections are in place in NE Syria in present time."

The comments appeared to be a message to Kurdish-led authorities not to hold the elections.

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Turkey, which has conducted military operations in Syria in the past, considers the move a step by Syrian Kurdish militants toward the creation of an independent Kurdish entity across its border. It has described the planned polls as a threat to the territorial integrity of both Syria and Turkey.

"We are closely following the aggressive actions by the terrorist organization against the territorial integrity of our country and of Syria under the pretext of an election," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday.

Turkey considers the Kurdish militia group, known as the People's Protection Units, as a terrorist group linked to an outlawed Kurdish group that has led an insurgency in Turkey since 1984. That conflict with the Kurdistan Workers' Party has killed tens of thousands of people.

The People's Protection Units provide the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group . American support for the SDF has infuriated Turkey and remains a major source of friction in their relations.