Blast kills four in Syria's Afrin held by Turkey-backed rebels

Car bomb attack comes after Turkish leader Erdogan threatened to launch new offensive against US-allied Kurdish forces.

    Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from Kurdish fighters in early 2018 [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]
    Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from Kurdish fighters in early 2018 [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

    A car bomb has killed at least four people and wounded 20 others in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, held by pro-Turkey rebels, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said.

    The explosion on Sunday came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened earlier this week to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria "in a few days".

    Meanwhile, the UK-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said eight people - four civilians and four fighters - were killed, with activist-operated Shaam news agency reporting the same death toll.

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    It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast.

    Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from the YPG in early 2018 in their second large-scale operation into northern Syria since 2016.

    Turkey accuses the YPG of being terrorists. However, the armed group is the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria. 

    The YPG, as well as US forces, are currently present in areas along the Turkish border to the east of Afrin.

    Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the car bomb, which exploded "near a position of pro-Turkey fighters" in a market, wounded dozens.

    On Friday, US President Donald Trump agreed with Erdogan for a "more effective coordination" between them in the war-torn country.

    Erdogan has strongly criticised Washington's support for the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIL in their last holdout in the far east of the country.

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    The US military has set up observation posts in the region in an effort to prevent friction between its NATO ally and the Syrian Kurdish forces.

    Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

    It has since spiralled into a complex conflict and a proxy war involving armed groups and world powers.

    SOURCE: News agencies