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Turkey steps up training militants in northern Syria: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo shows militants of the so-called Free Syrian Army (Photo by Reuters).

Turkey has reportedly resumed an extensive campaign aimed at training the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants in northern Syria, purportedly to fight Kurdish forces and Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

Turkish special forces are training more FSA troops in using mortars, rocket launchers and machine guns, Anadolu news agency reported.

"It is no longer the old FSA in the field but a new FSA being born. These FSA members in training will show their difference in possible future operations," the report quoted an unidentified military official as saying.

The report comes after Turkey declared in March an end to the first phase of its so-called military operation along with the FSA against Daesh and People's Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the country would retaliate through a cross-border operation if the YPG poses a security threat.

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Turkey deems the YPG a terror organization and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a three-decade-long insurgency against Ankara in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.

On Friday, Anadolu cited security sources as saying that the Turkish military had stepped up presence along its southern border and dispatched armored military vehicles and munitions to the area to respond to potential attacks by the YPG and PKK.

The Turkish military units and intelligence are currently monitoring Kurdish-controlled Afrin, Tel Abyad and Qamishli in northern Syria and the Iraqi border.

Members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units monitor the positions of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in the Syrian town of Ra's al-Ayn, close to the Turkish border, on March 13, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Since July 2015, Turkish air force has been carrying out operations against the PKK positions in the country’s troubled southeastern border region as well as in northern Iraq and neighboring Syria.

In early December 2015, Turkey deployed a contingent of its troops to the Bashiqa military camp north of Mosul, claiming that the move had been earlier coordinated with Iraqi officials. Baghdad swiftly denied the claim and ever since has called on Ankara to immediately withdraw its forces from the camp. Turkey, however, has so far refused to pull out its forces from the Iraqi soil.

In August 2016, Turkey also began a major military intervention in Syria, sending tanks and warplanes across the border, claiming that its military campaign was aimed at pushing Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria and stopping the advance of Kurdish forces. Damascus denounces the operation as a breach of its sovereignty.

Ankara in late March announced the end of its military operations in Syria, but did not rule out the possibility of yet another military intervention in war-torn Syria.


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