Turkey training militants near
Syria Kurdish region: report

Hawar News claimed that Turkish intelligence has been training a group of armed men to fire artillery and tank rounds.

Turkish tanks near Syria

BEIRUT – Turkey has been training militants with heavy weapons near northwest Syria’s de-facto Kurdish autonomous Afrin canton, according to an outlet close to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).


Hawar News (ANHA) reported Monday that a strip of territory in the far northwest of Syria stretching from Maydan Akbis down to Qara Baba is “witnessing unprecedented movements” along the Turkish side of the border.


“The Turkish army in recent days has been training armed groups of unknown identity in the use of heavy weapons, such as tanks and artillery… [across the border] from Qara Baba,” the news outlet claimed.


Hawar News, which has an editorial policy harshly critical of Turkey, further alleged that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has been supervising the training of the mystery groups, which have been firing projectiles toward the Tepe Koroglu area within Turkish territory west of the Afrin canton.


Meanwhile, sources told the outlet that Turkish intelligence formed two fighting groups—both composed of 15 combatants—in the border villages of Kazikli and Deliosman, which lie just north of the Afrin canton’s border with Turkey.


“These moves coincide with Turkish reconnaissance flights along the border of the Afrin Canton,” ANHA’s correspondent reported.


The report did not go into further details on the potential identity of the militants receiving the training.


Ankara has close ties with ethnic Turkmen rebel groups in northern Syria, providing special forces training in the past to the brigades, which are affiliated with the Free Syrian Army and have taken part in operations in Aleppo, Idlib and outside Latakia.


YPG advances eastward from the Afrin canton into a corridor of rebel-held territory north of Aleppo following a regime offensive in early February has enraged Turkey, prompting artillery fire on Kurdish troops that seized the Mennegh airbase and are now positioned outside the strategic towns of Aazaz and Marea.


Ankara considers the YPG—which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—to be a terror organization, and top Turkish officials have repeatedly vowed they will not allow Syrian Kurdish forces to expand further along Turkey’s border.


NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.

Turkish tanks near Syria's border. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)

The Turkish army in recent days has been training armed groups of unknown identity in the use of heavy weapons, such as tanks and artillery.