First Published: 2013-01-18

 

Fierce clashes pit Syrian Kurds against jihadists

 

Kurdish fighters are fighting to stop fiercest rebel assault ever since insurgents first arrived in Ras al-Ain.

 

Middle East Online

ALEPPO, Syria - Fierce clashes raged late on Thursday in the majority Kurdish northern Syrian city of Ras al-Ain, on the Turkish border, pitting jihadists against Kurdish fighters, residents and an activist said.

The fighting comes six months after troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad withdrew from majority Kurdish areas, leaving residents to fend for themselves.

Jihadists have since staged several assaults on the strategic city, and most of its residents have fled.

Syria's Kurds are divided over the revolt against Assad. Some support the regime, others back the revolt, and still others seek to remain neutral.

On Thursday, "the fighting became more intense in the evening after Kurdish fighters received reinforcements to try to stop the fiercest rebel assault ever since insurgents first arrived in the city" in November, a resident identifying himself only as Mohammed said.

The rebels are loyal to the jihadist Al-Nusra Front, which is listed by the United States as a "terrorist" organisation, as well as Islamist groups Ghuraba al-Sham and Ahfad al-Rasul, said Mohammed.

While earlier reports said no jihadists were involved in the fighting, an activist from Ras al-Ain -- a Kurdish opponent of Assad -- confirmed Mohammed's account.

"Armed groups loyal to Al-Nusra Front crossed the Turkish border with three tanks into the city of Ras al-Ain," the activist, who identified himself as Havidar, told AFP in Beirut via the Internet.

While Turkey supports the revolt against Assad, it is also home to a sizeable Kurdish minority that has suffered much persecution and suppression.

Activists say they fear Turkey may be using jihadists in Syria to fight its own battle against the Kurds.

"The advancing rebels did not use the tanks to fight the regime. Instead, they used them to shell Ras al-Ain," said Havidar.

Analysts and activists have voiced fears over the potential consequences should fighting between Kurdish militia and jihadists continue.

"We are concerned about continued clashes in Ras al-Ain between Kurdish militia and rebel fighters from Al-Nusra Front and Ghuraba al-Sham," said prominent Kurdish activist and journalist Massoud Akko.

"Should the fight morph into a struggle between Kurds and Arabs... Syria and the revolt (against Assad) are both in real danger," said Akko.

"We the Kurds have no problem with the (mainstream rebel) Free Syrian Army, so long as it is fighting the regime, but we see no justification for the assault on Ras al-Ain."

 

Syria army retreats as rebels hold on to Idlib

Turkey accused of providing weapons to Syria jihadists

Yemen shelling kills two Saudi border guards

Nusra Front chief pledges no attacks on West

Israel FIFA suspension bid withdrawn, amended proposal passed

Attack on Shi'ite mosque in Saudi Arabia

Syrian Christian beheads IS terrorist

Al-Azhar meets Marine Le Pen to 'show true Islam'

IS claims Baghdad hotel car bombings

'Highest ethical standards' for Qatar World Cup

Bombs rip through Baghdad hotel car parks

Merryland Park: A missed symbol of liberal Egypt

Syria revenues shrink under rebel control

Blair resignation widely welcomed by Palestinians

Qatar pledges $50 mn to Indonesia for sheltering Rohingya migrants

Al-Jazeera interview with Nusra leader draws criticism

Palestinians 'open' to every scenario on FIFA vote on Israel

Iran defends spy trial of US journalist

Iraq exhumed remains of 470 bodies from Tikrit mass graves

Kerry set to launch final diplomatic push for Iran nuclear talks

Coalition raids target headquarters of rebel troops in Yemen capital

Iraq operation to liberate Anbar faces barrage of criticism

EU calls for resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks

Fast pace of executions in Saudi Arabia 'very disturbing'

Tunisia begins hearings into ex-regime's rights abuses

‘Islamic State’ executes 20 men in ruins of Syria ancient city

Saudi Arabia announces sanctions against two Hezbollah leaders

Libya to fight aggression with 'strength'

Iran says nuclear talks could go beyond deadline

Hamas accused of committing war crimes against civilians

German court rejects Yemenis' case over US drone killings

Kuwait emir urges Muslim states to fight extremism

NY Times journalist has Turkish citizenship revoked

Military site inspections necessary to Iran deal

Iraqi forces on outskirts of Ramadi

Syrian refugees ignored at Turkey poll campaign

Director 'shocked' at Morocco’s prostitution film ban

Libya PM survives assassination attempt

US criticises Shiite name of Iraqi military operation

Israel warplanes strike Gaza after rocket attack

Pro-government fighters retake Yemen city from Shiite rebels

Libya militias trap civilians in Benghazi

EU border agency plans to expand migrant rescue operation

Syria state TV blames ‘foreign enemies’ for signal jamming

Palestinians and jihadists clash in Yarmouk