IS militants hit US-backed Kurdish fighters in north Syria

  • IS militants hit US-backed Kurdish fighters in north Syria

IS militants hit US-backed Kurdish fighters in north Syria

The US expects Turkey to take responsibility for captive ISIS fighters in north-eastern Syria if Ankara's planned operation seizes areas where the detained militants are held, a senior State Department official said. A Syrian war monitoring group, the United Kingdom -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported Wednesday that people were fleeing the border town of Tal Abyad, which Turkey is expected to attack first.

Mr Mustafa Bali, an official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said the continued Turkish military build-up on the border, together with information about a further mobilisation of Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, indicated that "an attack is imminent and we expect it soon".

But there was confusion later on Monday when Trump tweeted that he would "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it did anything he did not like. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces became the main USA -backed force in Syria in the fight against IS. Both have troops on the ground in Syria.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Turkey to show restraint and avoid military action in the region, adding that USA forces should leave the region.

Near the Turkish border town of Akcakale, across from Syria's Tel Abyad, a Reuters witness saw howitzers placed behind earth embankments on Turkey's side of the border, pointed towards Syria. American troops must leave the region.

Turkey is backing the Free Syrian Army, the major opposition force in Syria that was formerly supported by the US.

The sudden Iranian drill was announced on Wednesday. The area is about 620 kilometers, or 385 miles, northwest of Tehran.

Trump's decision to withdraw troops from northeast Syria has rattled allies, including France, one of Washington's main partners in the US -led coalition fighting Islamic State.

They also said that critics of Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 air defense missile system which led to "rupturing the U.S. -Turkey relationship" is an oversimplification.

Turkey says it is ready to advance into northeast Syria now that the United States has begun withdrawing troops from the Turkey-Syria frontier in an abrupt policy shift by U.S. President Donald Trump widely criticized in Washington as a betrayal of America's allies, the Kurds.

It also called on the worldwide community to live up to its responsibilities as "a humanitarian catastrophe might befall our people" in northeastern Syria.

"We call upon our people, of all ethnic groups, to move toward areas close to the border with Turkey to carry out acts of resistance during this sensitive historical time", it said. France is also allied with Turkey through North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, although the two nations' interests in the region have often appeared to clash, as is the case with the U.S.

The Kurds have been "tossed aside" by Washington, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper. Lavrov said during a visit to Kazakhstan on Wednesday that the USA first propped up the Syrian Kurdish "quasi state" in northeastern Syria and is now withdrawing its support.

As for the Kurds, he said their "wonderful fighters" continued to receive USA help with finance and weapons.

Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish presidency's communications director, called on the worldwide community in a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday "to rally" behind Ankara, which he said would also take over the fight against the Islamic State group.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, says it is still trying to talk Turkey out of invading northeastern Syria.

The White House also said Turkey would be responsible for thousands of IS prisoners now held in Kurdish detention centres.

The Kurdish-led forces, who have been Washington's most capable partners in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have denounced the major shift in USA policy as a "stab in the back".

The Kurdish fighters say IS launched three suicide attacks against its positions in Raqqa. There was no word on casualties. Raqqa is being Silently Slaughtered, an activist collective that covers news in the northern city, reported an exchange of fire and a blast.