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KURDISH forces denied that Turkey has entered the northern Syrian city of Manbij today, accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of electioneering ahead of Sunday’s crucial presidential and parliamentary vote.
Manbij Military Council spokesman Shervan Derwish insisted that claims made by the Turkish army that its troops were patrolling the city were unfounded.
Ankara claimed to have deployed 190 troops to Manbij with more expected to join them by July 5 as it extends its campaign in Syria.
“Turkish forces have not stepped into Manbij or any of the fields where our forces are located,” he said. “Our forces are still confronting the mercenaries allied with the Turkish army.”
He confirmed that Kurdish troops were still patrolling the area alongside US forces stationed in the city.
He said the claims were “a clear attempt to use Manbij as an electoral campaign issue.”
Mr Derwish spoke out after Ankara claimed “independent patrol” missions were taking place with US troops along the outskirts of Manbij as part of a roadmap agreed by both countries.
Speaking at an election rally in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Samsun, Mr Erdogan told supporters: “We had said that terror organisations will leave Manbij. We had also talked about patrol missions in Manbij.”
The city has been held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) since the defeat of Isis in 2016. However, a recent deal was struck between Ankara and Washington which would see the Kurds relinquish control.
It had been feared that Manbij could become a flashpoint with a direct confrontation between the Nato allies after Mr Erdogan threatened to extend Turkey’s military operations in Syria.
Ankara launched so-called Operation Olive Branch in January, invading the peaceful Kurdish-held city of Afrin on the pretext of protecting its borders from terrorists. Turkey and its jihadist allies in the Free Syrian Army have been accused of war crimes amid reports of chemical attacks, rapes and head-chopping executions. More than 170,000 civilians, mainly Kurds, have been forced to flee their homes.
People’s Protection Units (YPG), which make up the largest component of the SDF, said they had already withdrawn a handful of military advisers from Manbij but would “heed the call” to support the people of the city should it be needed.
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