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UAE intelligence agents training YPG militants in northern, eastern Syria: Report

In this file picture, militants affiliated with the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG) gather in the town of Shadadi, situated about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah, on September 11, 2018. (By AFP)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s spy agency has reportedly been training Kurdish militants affiliated with the anti-Damascus People’s Protection Units (YPG) in areas under their occupation in northern and eastern Syria over the past few years.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency, citing multiple sources, reported on Sunday that Signals Intelligence Agency (SIA) officers held secret talks with the Kurdish militants back in 2017, and were dispatched to YPG-held areas in Syria the following year.

The report added that SIA agents purportedly train YPG militants to carry out espionage and counter-espionage operations, acts of sabotage as well as assassinations. The Kurdish militants are also being taught how to conduct signal intelligence, information security and cryptography on communication networks. 

Such training missions are said to be underway in the Kurdish-populated northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli as well as major cities of Hasakah and Dayr al-Zawr.

Anadolu further noted that Emirati intelligence officers have even established a secret direct hotline with YPG militants.

The UAE has long been accused of sponsoring the militant groups, which have been operating across Syria since early 2011 to topple the Damascus government.

The YPG — the backbone of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — has America’s support in its anti-Damascus push. The Kurdish militants seized swathes of land in the northern and eastern parts of Syria from the Takfiri Daesh terror group in 2017, and are now refusing to hand their control back to the central government.

Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.

On October 9, 2019, Turkish forces and Ankara-backed militants launched a cross-border invasion of northeastern Syria in an attempt to push YPG militants away from border areas.

Two weeks after the invasion began, Turkey and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants had to withdraw from the Turkish-controlled “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, after which Ankara and Moscow would run joint patrols around the area.

Back on June 14, an unnamed security source at the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) told the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper that the UAE had allegedly provided financial aid to PKK militants in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

The source said KRG authorities had imposed limitations on money transfers coming from the Persian Gulf state, and that the measure applied to all exchanges in Erbil, Duhok and Sulaymaniyah.

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