Al-Qaeda, Kurdish militia clash on Syrian border with Turkey: Activists

Al-Qaeda, Kurdish militia clash on Syrian border with Turkey: Activists

AMMAN - Reuters
Seven al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels were killed in a battle with a Syrian Kurdish militia on Sept. 25, as violence between Syria's Arabs and Kurds increased, opposition activists said.

The fighting in Atma, a town on the Turkish border which is a main escape route for refugees fleeing the civil war, shows how the region has become a battleground for a myriad of armed groups in a scramble to grab territory, opposition sources said.

As well as the seven members of the the al-Qaeda linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant killed in fighting with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), two women PYD recruits were also killed by mortar fire on the outskirts of the nearby town of Jandaris, the sources said.

Since the start of the revolt, President Bashar al-Assad's forces have pulled out of Kurdish regions, including Ifrin, where Atma is located, handing de facto control to the PYD. 

Opposition activist Mohammad Abdallah said officers from al-Assad's army visited PYD leaders in Jandaris in the last week to discuss military cooperation, prompting the rebels to launch a pre-emptive strike.

"There is a feeling that the Kurds were fortifying Jandaris as part of a plan to carve a Kurdish zone in Ifrin with the help of the regime," Abdallah said. "Fighting has been heavy all day, and rebels have brought heavier guns to defend Atma and to target the PKK."

Another activist in the town said the PYD had taken positions in high ground around Atma. "Most of Atma is now within site of PYD snipers. Clashes with rocket-propelled grenades are taking place on the hills," he said.

Seeking to mend ties with the Kurdish community, Syrian opposition leaders in exile attempted, at a meeting in Istanbul this month, to expand the Syrian National Coalition to include members of the Kurdish National Council, a grouping of the main Kurdish parties that does not include the PYD.