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BEIRUT (Reuters) – The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces accused Turkey-backed fighters of killing a Kurdish politician in an ambush on a road in northern Syria on Saturday, drawing a denial from a Turkey-backed rebel force which said it had not advanced that far.
Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters stand near a truck mounted with a weapon, near the border town of Tel Abyad, Syria, October 12, 2019. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organization which reports on the war, said Turkey-backed groups had killed nine civilians on the road, including Hervin Khalaf, co-chair of the secular Future Syria Party.
Asked about the accusation that Turkey-backed groups had killed Khalaf, the spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Army, which groups Syrian rebel factions, said they had not made it as far as the highway known as the M4.
“I confirm to you that our forces have not reached the M4,” Youssef Hammoud said in a voice message to Reuters, saying that they had instead reached a road closer to the border.
Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies launched an offensive into SDF-held parts of northeastern Syria on Wednesday.
The SDF, in a statement, said Khalaf’s killing on the highway between Aleppo and Hasaka showed “the Turkish invasion does not differentiate between a soldier, a civilian or a politician”.
Khalaf’s party was launched a year ago in a ceremony in Raqqa. The party head is an Arab politician from Manbij.
A map sent by an SDF media official showed the location of the incident on the M4 highway southeast of Tel Abyad.
The SDF had earlier reported that a group of “mercenaries of the Turkish army” had killed a number of civilians on the road after infiltrating the area.
SDF forces had repelled the Turkey-backed forces from the road which was then reopened, it said.
Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky