Turkey stepped up its bombing campaign against Kurdish militants outside its borders on Tuesday, killing as many as 20 U.S.-backed fighters in Syria and expanding its strikes in Iraq, an escalation that could complicate efforts to combat the Islamic State.
The Turkish military said the pre-dawn raids targeted “terrorist hotbeds” and supply routes used by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, to smuggle ammunition, weapons and explosive material into Turkey, where it is waging an insurgency.
But the PKK’s Syrian affiliate targeted in the strikes - the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG - has played a key role in turning back Islamic State militants and is a major component of U.S.-backed forces preparing for an assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. In a statement, the YPG said 20 of its fighters were killed.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly anxious at the growing sway of Syrian Kurdish fighters across Turkey’s southern border and has repeatedly asked the United States to abandon its support of the YPG.