A car bomb killed more than a dozen people and injured 30 on Saturday in a market of a Syrian border town that Turkish-backed forces seized last month, prompting Ankara to blame the Kurdish YPG militia.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-Turkey fighters and civilians were among the dead and injured in Tel Abyad. Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu Agency said 13 were killed after a “bomb-laden vehicle” exploded.
Tel Abyad is one of two major border towns that saw the heaviest fighting when Ankara launched the incursion on October 9 against the YPG, drawing international condemnation. The YPG had for years been allied with the United States in the fight against ISIS.
The explosion comes after two weeks of relative calm in north-east Syria, and a day after Turkish and Russian troops began joint ground patrols under a deal between the two countries that pushed the YPG from Turkey’s border.
While Moscow said the YPG have withdrawn to at least 30 kilometres from the border under the deal, Ankara has been sceptical and held out the possibility of new attacks if members of what it sees as a terrorist group remain.
“We condemn this inhuman attack of the bloody PKK/YPG terrorists who attacked the innocent civilians of Tel Abyad who returned to their homes and lands as a result of the Operation Peace Spring,” Turkey’s defence ministry said on Twitter.
Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also pointed the finger at the YPG.
A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPG, was not available for comment.
The PKK, based in Turkey, is designated a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group because of its ties to PKK militants in south-east Turkey.
Days after President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision on October 6 to pull US troops out of north-east Syria, Turkey and allied Syrian rebels launched a cross-border offensive and seized control of Tel Abyad and a strip of land along the frontier.
Ceasefire deals Ankara struck first with Washington and then with Moscow halted fighting in recent weeks. The UK-based Observatory said some 300,000 people have been displaced by the offensive and 120 civilians killed.
The incursion, which was condemned by scores of countries in the West and the Middle East, left the Turkey-backed rebel Syrian National Army largely in control of Tel Abyad.
On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had information that the YPG had not completed its pull-out from the border region.
Russia is the Syrian government’s most powerful ally and helped it turn the tables in the country’s eight-and-half-year civil war by retaking much of the country from rebels since 2015.
The Turkish-Russian allowed Syrian government forces to move back into border regions from which they had been absent for years.