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Turkey downs unidentified drone on Syria border: Defense ministry

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)
This AFP file photo, taken on February 20, 2018, shows a drone flying over the northern Syrian region of Afrin.

The Turkish Defense Ministry says the country’s air force has shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near the Syrian border after it violated Turkey’s airspace multiple times.

"An unmanned aerial vehicle which violated our air space six times on Saturday... was downed by two of our F-16s which took off from Incirlik" air base in southern Turkey, the defense ministry said in a post on Twitter, sharing the pictures of the downed drone.

The ministry said it was not known who or where the drone belonged to but noted that the UAV was grounded on Saturday afternoon at 1324 (1024 GMT) local time.

“The wreck of the drone was found at the Cildiroba base” by the Turkish gendarmerie in Kilis Province near the Syrian border, the ministry added.

Back in 2015, the Turkish air force shot down a Russian Su-24 aircraft on the border with Syria and sparked an unprecedented crisis in the two countries' relations.

The downing of the plane was condemned by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "stab in the back" but the two countries later reconciled and worked together on the conflict.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday that Turkey was fully prepared for a possible operation on the border with Syria to push back militants from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in case the United States fails to create a so-called safe zone in the northeastern part of the Arab country this month.

Erdogan roundly criticized the continued support of the US for the YPG, saying Washington was providing the Kurdish militants with arms.

Ankara has given the US until the end of the current month for concrete results on the development of a purported safe zone on Turkey's border with Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as the Syria branch of the homegrown Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

Turkey expects the creation of a 32-kilometer (20-mile) safe zone in northern Syria. It wants the YPG cleared from the region.

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