Several killed as car bomb hits market in strategic town in northeastern Syria
At least 13 people were killed and more than 30 injured after a car bomb exploded at a market in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, a war observer said, as the Turkish government pointed blame at Kurdish groups.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that pro-Turkey fighters and civilians were among those killed in the car explosion in the town straddling the Syria-Turkish border. Turkey's state-owned Anadolu Agency reported that children were among those killed.
Turkey's government blamed the outlawed Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian ally the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia for the "inhuman attack".
"We condemn this inhuman attack of the bloody PKK/YPG terrorists who attacked the innocent civilians of Tal Abyad who returned to their homes and lands as a result of the Operation Peace Spring," Turkey's defence ministry said on Twitter.
However, a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed group dominated by the YPG, on Twitter blamed Turkish-backed forces for the explosions.
"To displace true owners of the land and to settle Syrian refugees in Turkey to their homes in NE Syria, Turkish army and its proxies are now creating chaos in Tal Abyad by explosions targeting civilians," said Mustafa Bali.
"Turkey is responsible for civilian casualties in the region it controls."
Tal Abyad lies in a region that has seen some of the heaviest fighting since Turkey launched a military incursion against the YPG in northeast Syria last month, after the US pulled its troops out from the region.
Ankara views the group as an extension of the PKK and plans to create a buffer zone in Kurdish-held areas for the resettlement of Syrian refugees now residing in Turkey.
The offensive was halted after Ankara agreed a five-day ceasefire with Washington, followed by a further deal struck with the Russians at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, allowing it to assume control over a 120km-long stretch of the border with Syria.
On Friday, Turkey and Russia began joint patrols on the southern edge of the buffer zone, which lies 10km deep into Syria, to verify that Kurdish forces had withdrawn in compliance with that deal.
"In this context, the first patrol activity began at 12.00 today [Friday]. The patrol was carried out with the participation of eight armoured vehicles, four of which were Russian, under the escort of an unmanned aerial vehicle of the Turkish Armed Forces in the east of the Operation Peace Spring zone," Turkish Colonel Olcay Denizer said at a press conference yesterday.
The patrol added to deployments of American and Syrian troops, complicating the picture along the strategic border.
Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday the Sochi agreement was "temporary" and that Syrian government would eventually take the country's northeast.