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Turkish-backed jihadists arrested in Syria

SYRIAN Kurds have warned that jihadist militants detained after a bomb blast which killed 20 civilians in Manbij yesterday were acting on the orders of Turkey’s intelligence services and had been plotting further terror activities.

The Manbij Military Council (MMC), an alliance of several groups from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), said they had detained a jihadist cell during an operation after the deadly attack.

Yesterday’s blast at the al-Omaraa restaurant in Manbij, believed to have been a suicide attack, also wounded 19 people as US military patrol passed by in the northern Syrian city.

An MMC statement said that large numbers of weapons and ammunition were discovered, including grenades and Kalashnikov and M6 rifles.

“The anti-terrorist squads of the council detained a cell of seven militants, members of opposition groups that participated in Operation Euphrates Anger and were supported by Turkey, acting in concert with Turkish intelligence,” the statement said.

“They planned several explosions and acts similar to terrorist acts, following instructions directly from the Euphrates Anger groups and Turkish intelligence.”

Kurdish forces alleged that, at the scene of the blast, they found an identity card belonging to a Turkish agent known to have carried out extensive operations in Turkey, Iraq and Israel. 

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Turkish state is aiding the establishment of sleeper cells in SDF-controlled areas. 

The group claims that the cells are trained to carry out assassinations and bombings in secret camps in Afrin and the countryside around the northern city of Aleppo.

Turkey has long been accused of supporting jihadist groups, both within its own borders and in Syria, where they have allegedly recruited thousands of former Isis and Nusra Front members to fight against the Kurds.

Jihadists in the Free Syrian Army spearheaded Turkey’s illegal invasion and subsequent occupation of Afrin in January 2017’s Operation Olive Branch, during which ethnic cleansing and extrajudicial executions of the Kurdish population were reported.

More recently, Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to invade largely Kurdish Manbij, building a presence of troops following the US announcement that its forces are to withdraw from Syria.

Mr Erdogan has claimed that at least 15,000 FSA troops are ready to join Turkish forces in an offensive that was delayed after he spoke to US President Donald Trump in December.


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