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Middle East Erdogan vows to expand Syrian invasion further into Kurdish-held areas

Human rights groups have reported widespread looting in Afrin by Turkish troops and their allies

TURKISH President Recept Tayyip Erdogan vowed today to expand his country’s invasion of northern Syria into other Kurdish-held areas, following his military’s seizure of Afrin.

Residents and human rights monitors have reported widespread looting in the town by Turkish troops and their local allies, which are fighting under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) banner.

Video footage showed that one of the first acts of the FSA fighters, who appear to be former members of jihadist groups, in Afrin was the bulldoze a statue of a mythological Kurdish figure.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Brussels yesterday that she was “worried” about the Turkish offensive in Afrin, as it ran counter to recent international efforts to wind the fighting down.

Turkey claims that the Kurds in northern Syria are a threat to its security and has vowed to purge them from the region.

Ankara has carried out a bloody crackdown on its own Kurdish population and anyone expressing support for the Kurds is routinely branded a terrorist.

Thousands of Afrin residents, many of whom had earlier fled from the villages near the Turkish border to the town centre, streamed out of Afrin before the invading troops entered. Lines of vehicles and civilians on foot headed towards Syrian government-controlled territory to the south or other Kurdish-controlled areas.

Jiwan Mohamed, a hospital doctor who worked in Afrin, said the news from inside the town and images of looting were disturbing. The central hospital was bombed before the town centre was captured, he said.

Syrian Kurdish officials have reported that more than 800 fighters of the YPG militia died in the 58 days of fighting for Afrin, while an estimated 500 civilian lives were lost.

Among the YPG casualties was Briton Anna Campbell, who was fighting with the YPJ, the women’s militia of the YPG, when she was killed in a Turkish air strike on the town.

YPJ commander Nesrin Abdullah said her killing was a “great loss” and that Ms Campbell had “wanted to work for the unity, solidarity and mutual liberation of women around the world.”

The Kurdistan Solidarity Campaign in Britain noted that “Anna is not just the first woman from these shores to die fighting for the Rojava revolution but the first British citizen to be killed by our Nato ‘allies’ Turkey.”

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