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."

 

Hope for change and stability as Tunisia prepares to elect new president

Voters bet on stability in crucial Bahrain elections

Economy and security top agenda of Sisi’s first European tour

Shebab ‘revenge’ attack leaves 28 innocents dead in Kenya

No justice for survivors of acid attacks in Iran

Saudi detainee sent home as US speeds up Guantanamo repatriations

Benghazi attack report clears Obama administration of serious charges

Hurdles remain high as Iran and world powers press on for nuclear pact

Strains between Washington and Ankara despite declared agreement

Paypal teams up AttijariWafa bank with to boost Morocco exports

UN begins sending winter aid to Iraq

Turkey launches all-out war against bonzai drug

Turkey to build bridge across Dardanelles to ease traffic

IS launch major attack on Ramadi

Biden: You cannot think free where you cannot challenge orthodoxy

Does Abbas have enough political influence to stop violence in Jerusalem?

Turkey offers military assistance to Iraq

Bomb hits police post near Helwan University in Egypt

UN demands staff member release in South Sudan

Tunisia goes for democracy to counter schemes of Ennahda and Marzouki

US envoy: IS ‘impaled itself’ on Kobane

Iran sees ‘no more room’ for talks on design of Arak reactor

Morocco King and Biden discuss ‘compelling alternative’ to dissuade potential jihadists

In response to Amnesty report: UAE remains committed to protection of human rights

World blacklists Ansar al-Sharia group in Libya

Dempsey places heavy responsibility on Iraq fractured army

Ladies first at Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Barbarism of suicide bombers rocks Arbil in fresh bloody attack

Egypt gives its blessing to Qatar return to Arab fold

France identifies second citizen in IS execution video

Israel returns to policy of punitive house demolitions

France reveals worrying numbers: More than 1000 jihadist nationals in Syria

Without Khamenei support, Rouhani risks much in Iran nuclear gamble

Saudi King urges Egypt to support Qatar return to Arab fold

Turkey may go ahead with redevelopment of Gezi Park

Suicide bomber blows up car in Iraqi Kurdish capital

Iraq government transfers $500 million to Kurdish region

Syria economy back to 1980s size

Netanyahu: Israel at the height of ongoing terror attack

Spanish lawmakers urge Madrid to recognise Palestine

Is GCC spat over Qatar finally over?

Turkey fears new wave of Syria refugees if Aleppo falls

Saudi Arabia expands buffer zone with Iraq

Spain parliament takes step towards recognising Palestine

Deadliest Jerusalem attack in years raises fears of escalation