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YPG says three foreign fighters killed in Syria clashes

Two fighters from France and Spain died in northern Afrin region, and a Dutch national was killed in eastern Deir Ezzor
Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG rally in Afrin (AFP)

Three foreigners fighting with Kurdish forces in Syria were killed in recent clashes, including two in the northern region of Afrin, it was announced on Sunday.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) named the fighters as French national Olivier Francois Jean Le Clainche, 41, Spanish national Samuel Prada Leon, 25, and Dutch national Sjoerd Heeger, 25. 

Le Clainche and Leon died "in the clashes with the occupiers at the Jandairis front on February 10," the YPG said.

Jandaris is a town in the southwestern corner of Afrin, a Kurdish-controlled exclave on Syria's northern border with Turkey that is currently the target of an offensive by Turkey and allied Syrian militias.

The area has been the target of fierce bombardment during the campaign, codenamed Operation Olive Branch.  

The YPG said the two men had joined their forces in the summer of 2017 to fight the Islamic State group.

"These two comrades gave great efforts for the liberation of the main bases of IS, such as the cities Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, and they participated continuously in the war lasting for months," it said.

Heeger was killed fighting IS in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province on 12 February, according to a YPG statement. 

Hundreds of foreign fighters have travelled to Syria to join the YPG in their fight against IS. The Kurdish group controls large areas of northern Syria which it captured from IS with support from the United States.

With IS now driven from most of Syria, the YPG has shifted attention to Afrin. In January, a group of foreign fighters, including three Britons announced in a video they would be travelling to Afrin to assist in the fight against Turkish forces.

The US's alliance with the Kurds has angered Turkey, which considers the YPG to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The PKK has been fighting a four-decade-long insurgency against the Turkish government for greater autonomy of Kurdish regions.

YPG launches cross-border attack on Turkey

The announcement came a day after the YPG said it had conducted a cross-border attack on Turkish soil.

Late Saturday, the YPG announced it had carried out "a special operation against a gathering centre for Turkish soldiers" and allied Syrian fighters

It said the position was in Kirikhan, a district in Turkey's Hatay province, and that there were casualties, without specifying what weapons it had used. 

"We call on civilians to stay away from positions controlled by the Turkish invaders and ... terrorists, as all military positions are legitimate targets for our forces," the statement said. 

Turkish media on Saturday reported that two Turkish soldiers and five allied Syrian rebels were wounded when mortar fire hit a police station in Kirikhan.

Turkey's assault on Afrin is their second military operation in Syria but the first to target the US-backed YPG directly. In August 2016 Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield, which targeted IS-controlled territory and aimed to prevent the YPG from uniting their territory in northern Syria with the exclave of Afrin.       

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