3 Kurds reportedly shot dead celebrating new year in Syria
BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey-backed opposition fighters in Syria fatally shot at least three ethnic Kurds who were celebrating a holiday late Monday by lighting fires, Syrian opposition activists and pro-government media said.
The shooting near the northwestern town of Jinderis, which suffered substantial damage during last month’s earthquake, underlined the high tensions between Turkey-backed opposition fighters and the Kurdish community in Syria.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the shooting was carried out by members of the Ahrar Sharqiya group, an armed opposition group backed by Turkey.
The observatory said members of the group got into an argument with some Kurds after mocking them for lighting a fire in honor of the Kurdish new year celebration. Members of the Ahrar Sharqiya group shot and killed three Kurds and wounded four others, the observatory said. It said all those killed were from the same family.
The pro-government Sham FM radio station said four Kurds were killed in the shooting.
In the hours after the shooting, Kurds from Jinderis took to the streets. Some traveled in a convoy to the town of Atmeh, about nine miles away, where protesters called on the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to seize control of Jinderis from the Turkish-backed militias.
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Roshin Othman, whose 50-year-old brother was among those killed and who joined the protesters, said that first a group of men began throwing stones at the Kurds who had set the fire and then “went to their office and got weapons and began spraying bullets on everyone.”
“For the past five years our life is not a life,” she said, referring to the time since Turkish-backed groups took control of Jinderis, “We’ve had enough of injustice.”
Clashes between Turkey-backed opposition gunmen and Kurdish fighters have left scores of people dead on both sides in Syria.
Since 2016, Turkey has launched three major operations inside Syria, targeting Syria’s main Kurdish militia — the People’s Protection Units or YPG — which Turkey considers a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The PKK has for decades waged an insurgency within Turkey against the government in Ankara.
The YPG, however, forms the backbone of U.S.-led forces in the fight against Islamic State militants and has been a proven top U.S. ally in Syria.
Jinderis was controlled by Kurdish fighters until 2018 when it was taken by Turkey-backed opposition fighters who still hold it. The capture of the town displaced many Kurds.