Kurdish militias claim killing 17 Turkish soldiers as troops mobilized near Syria borders

A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter carries a walkie talkie as he stands with his fellow fighters during an offensive against Islamic State militants in northern Raqqa province, Syria February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

( Media outlets allied with Syrian Kurdish militias have quoted sources on Friday saying the troops killed 17 Turkish soldiers, as other reports say Ankara was lobbying troops on the borders amid escalating encounters.

Sources within the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) said that a Turkish armored vehicle was also destroyed in the encounters near the northern Syrian town of Afrin.

Syrian town of Afrin (google maps)

Also on Friday, Sky News Arabia said Turkish military troops were seen lobbying near the borders with Syria’s Tal Abyad region at the countryside of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s base in Syria. Turkish troops and YPG briefly exchanged fire, while Turkish warplanes flew over the scene of clashes.

The network quoted Syrian sources saying YPG ordered its troops to evacuate from towns near the Turkish borders in anticipation for a possible Turkish incursion.

Ankara said Tuesday its fighter jets killed at least 70 Kurdish fighters in the northern areas of Iraq and Syria as part of an operation targeting locations held by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), its arch enemy.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based Syrian war monitor, said Turkish strikes killed 18 YPG fighters on Tuesday.

The U.S. relies on the YPG in its ground operations in Syria, but Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the PKK, and has pressed Washington to exclude the militia from military efforts against the Islamic State in Syria.

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