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Syria arrests Turkish-backed militants planning terror attacks

Syrian Kurdish officials have arrested a group of Turkish-backed militants from the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), who was apparently plotting new terror attacks in the country’s northern province of Aleppo on orders from Turkey’s intelligence agency (MIT).

“Counter-terrorism units of the Manbij Military Council (MMC) have disbanded a cell, comprising of seven militants who … were supported by the Ankara government and were acting in full coordination with MIT,” the MMC said in a statement on Thursday.

It added, “They were planning several explosions and acts of terror.”

The statement went on to say that large amounts of weapons and munitions, including grenades, Kalashnikov assault rifles and Chiappa Firearms M6 M6 rifles was seized from the militants.

The development came a day after at least four US servicemen and 14 other people were killed following a massive bomb explosion, which struck near a patrol of the US-led coalition forces purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Manbij.

An image grab taken from a video published by Hawar News Agency (ANHA) on January 16, 2019, shows the aftermath of an attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.

Reuters, citing an unnamed US military official, reported that three other American troops were also wounded in the Wednesday afternoon blast.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) identified nine of the fatalities as civilians, adding that the rest were members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

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The Britain-based monitor added that the blast targeted the al-Ummara restaurant in the center of Manbij on Wednesday afternoon.

The Observatory noted that the death toll is expected to rise as some of the wounded victims are in critical condition.

An image grab taken from a video obtained by AFPTV on January 16, 2019, shows US armored vehicles at the scene of an attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.

Daesh later claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, saying the attacker detonated his explosive-laden vest as US-led coalition forces were passing by.

Manbij has been a major bone of contention between Turkey and the United States.

Ankara has complained over the slow implementation of a deal reached with Washington in June 2018, which would see the YPG ousted from the town and moved back to the eastern bank of the river.. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

Over the past few weeks, the Turkish military has been sending reinforcements to frontline areas with YPG militants in northern Syria.

US President Donald Trump said last month that he was bringing home the American troops deployed in Syria – some 2,000 – alleging they had succeeded in their mission to defeat the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.

On January 10, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would launch an offensive against YPG forces, in case the US delayed the planned withdrawal of its troops from Syria.

“If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Cavusoglu told Turkish-language NTV television news network in an exclusive interview.

 

The top Turkish diplomat then underlined that the Ankara government would go ahead with its incursion plan.

Cavusoglu said Ankara would fight the YPG whether or not US soldiers pulled out of Syria.

The Turkish military, with support from allied militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army, has launched two cross-border operations in northern Syria, dubbed “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch,” against the YPG and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

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