Turkey 'accidentally' shells US special forces in Syria – UPDATES

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© Reuters / Murad Sezer
Turkish soldiers seen at the border town of Akcakale

A blast occurred near a US military base near Kobane, Syria, according to Reuters. The explosion comes alongside reports that Turkish forces shelled their US counterparts in their anti-Kurdish offensive.

No US personnel were injured in Friday’s blast and the cause of the explosion is unclear, Reuters stated, citing an unnamed US official. The information on the apparent explosion coincided with a Newsweek report that Turkish forces allegedly shelled American special ops in the same area. According to the report, the shelling was accidental, as Turkish artillery targeted Kurdish fighters positioned there.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Defense Ministry said that “all measures” were taken not to hit the US base while its troops were responding to “harassment fire” originating from near the installation. A US official later told Reuters that reports its service members were attacked are “not accurate.”

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said that the Turkish military is “fully aware down to explicit grid coordinate detail, of the locations of US forces.”

Earlier this week, Turkey launched a military offensive in Northern Syria against Kurdish forces it considers terrorists. Meanwhile, the Kurds are Washington’s allies in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and US President Donald Trump has been criticized for “abandoning” them by withdrawing US troops.

Trump has deflected the criticism threatening to “hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions” if Ankara refuses to show restraint. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that his campaign against the Kurds will continue “no matter what anyone says.” He stressed the mission is aimed only at “terrorists” and not at Kurds who are Turkey’s “brothers.”

Both General Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper repeated calls on Turkey to halt its offensive on Friday, yet Milley told reporters that based on his conversations with counterparts in the Turkish military, he has “not seen any indication or warnings” that the offense will cease.

Comment: The Pentagon later confirmed that they had in fact come under fire from Turkish military:

Following earlier media reports of explosions near the town of Kobani, the Pentagon said US troops “came under artillery fire from Turkish positions at approximately 9 p.m. local Oct. 11” and that the explosions occurred “in an area known by the Turks to have US forces present.”

The American soldiers were not withdrawn from the town, the statement noted, adding that Washington “remains opposed to the Turkish military move into Syria.”

The US demands that Turkey avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action.

Later on Friday night, the Associated Press reported an American outpost was abandoned after the shelling, citing US officials, but noted that a larger base in Kobani had not been evacuated or affected by the strike. The outpost would likely soon be reoccupied, the officials added.

Erdogan rebuked US threats to shut down Ankara’s economy, saying Turkey will not stop its military campaign:

“We can’t wait. As Turkey, we will never stop this fight, no matter what anyone says,” Erdogan declared on Friday. “The US and Europe both say we are killing Kurds. The Kurdish people are our brothers. Our struggle is against terror groups.”

Yesterday, reports had 342 SDF fighters dead as a result of the fighting (the SDF says they lost 22), in addition to 262 Turkey-backed rebels and soldiers (Turkey acknowledges 2 Turkish soldier deaths so far). Ankara upped the number of SDF killed today to 415. Approximately 70,000 people are thought to have fled the region so far. The Turks are reported to have reached the strategic M4 highway:

The strategic M4 highway in northeastern Syria is located about 19 miles (30km) south of the border with Turkey.

Spokesman Youssef Hammoud said that National Army fighters had captured 18 villages as part of the advance.

“This advance was on a new and surprise front… between Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain. On this front, they were able to cut the roads linking together Suluk, Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ain with the villages in the area,” he said in a statement to Reuters.

Turkey claims that its forces took control of the town of Ras al-Ain, situated on the road, on Saturday. The SDF denies that it lost the town and says that there is still fighting in the area.

The loss of the roadway would be a major blow to the US-backed Kurdish forces that have been targeted by Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.

The Russian military has noticed an uptick in terror attacks in Syria since Turkey invaded the north:

“On 11 October, an improvised shell-free explosive device was set off on the patrol route of the Russian military police in the province of Deraa in southern Syria, about 700 meters west of the village of Anhul. None of the Russian military personnel were injured”, Maj. Gen. Alexey Bakin, head of the Russian centre for Syrian reconciliation said at a daily news briefing.

The Russian centre for Syrian reconcilliation also stressed that “against the backdrop of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in the northeast of Syria, illegal armed groups have intensified their activities in other regions of the Syrian Arab Republic”.

The Arab League condemned the invasion as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty. Along with France, they warned it could lead to a resurgence of ISIS. Germany has halted arms exports to Turkey.

For previous updates and analysis of the Turkish military operation in northern Syria, see:

from https://www.sott.net/article/421880-Turkey-accidentally-shells-US-special-forces-in-Syria-UPDATES

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