nsnbc : Eleven Turkish soldiers lost their lives on Saturday when a helicopter was downed in northern Syria’s predominantly Kurdish Afrin region in Rojava a.k.a. Syrian Kurdistan. On Monday the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the YPG Press Office reported the downing of a Turkish Biraqdar reconnaissance drone in the Qodeh, Afrin.
The flight into Syrian territory was part of Turkey’s so-called “Operation Olive Branch” against the U.S.-backed Syrian – Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), launched on January 20 against the backdrop of international condemnation. Ankara perceives the YPG as a terrorist organization allied and on par with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“At this stage, we can say that one out of two helicopters was downed. We have two martyrs,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in televised remarks. The Turkish military later said nine more soldiers were killed in separate incidents but did not give details. Another 11 soldiers were reportedly injured after the offensive’s bloodiest day for Turkish military personnel, the army said.
Yildirim confirmed that the helicopter was in Syrian territory as part of “Operation Olive Branch”. Turkey is using YPG as pretext to invade the Syrian Kurdish region in order not allow Kurds to establish an autonomous region in Syrian Kurdistan, analysts say. Mustefa Bali, spokesman for the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by the YPG, said on Twitter that a helicopter had been hit in the Rajo area of northwest Afrin, near the Turkish border.
However, the state-run news agency Anadolu said the incident happened in the southern border province of Hatay, while the private Dogan news agency was reporting that authorities were trying to reach the wreckage in the Kirikhan district.
Earlier, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a helicopter had been shot down without saying who was responsible. “Of course, these kinds of things will happen. We are in a war. We will have losses, but we will cause the other side to have losses as well,” he said in a televised speech, vowing to make the perpetrators pay “a much heavier price”.
The Turkish military said one of its helicopters crashed at 1300 (1000 GMT) killing two military personnel but did not give a reason for the incident, only saying that an investigation had been launched. Last Saturday, seven Turkish troops died in the second worst single-day loss of the operation so far, with five killed in a tank attack. Some 1,141 “terrorists” had been neutralized during the operation, Erdogan said, referring to those YPG / SDF troops killed but also those captured or wounded. It was not immediately possible to verify this figure.
Yildirim earlier said Turkey had not launched its operation in Afrin to enter into a war or because it had “an eye” on another country’s territory. “Excuse me but no state would ignore a terror organisation growing like a tumor next to it,” he said. “This is a threat to Turkey which Ankara has the natural right to fight under international and domestic law,” Yildirim added.
It is worth noting that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the YPG Press Office, on Monday, reported that its air defense forces managed to shoot down an unmanned Biraqdar reconnaissance aircraft in the Qodeh village of Afrin. The craft is reportedly considered to be one of Turkey’s finest and capable of maneuvering in all climatic and air conditions. It has both night vision and infrared capabilities. It also carries two guided and remotely controlled missiles.
CH/L – nsnbc 12.02.2018