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Syria war: Afrin looted by Turkish-backed rebels

There have been reports of looting by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels who seized control of the northern Syrian city of Afrin from a Kurdish militia on Sunday.
A UK-based monitoring group said shops and military and government facilities had been raided.
Turkish state media meanwhile said a booby-trap bomb left by Kurdish fighters had killed 11 people.
Kurdish leaders have vowed that their forces will make Afrin “a permanent nightmare” for Turkey and its allies.
The Turkish military and a number of rebel factions launched an offensive two months ago to drive the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia out of Afrin city and its surrounding region, which is predominantly Kurdish.

Kurdish leaders said resistance would “continue until every inch of Afrin is liberated”
The Turkish government says the YPG is an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for three decades, and considers it a terrorist group.
The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK – an assertion backed by the US, which has provided the militia and allied Arab fighters with weapons and air support to help them battle the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).
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The Syrian rebels said they met little resistance when they advanced into the centre of Afrin before dawn on Sunday. Many YPG fighters were believed to have withdrawn along with the estimated 250,000 civilians who fled the city last week.
Pictures showed soldiers flying a Turkish flag from a building, and rebels tearing down a statue of the Kurdish hero Kawa Haddad.

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Media captionFootage shows destroyed statues and flags being raised in the centre of Afrin
AFP news agency journalists in Afrin also saw rebels break into shops, restaurants and houses, and leave with food, electronic equipment, blankets and other goods. They were then transported out of the city.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which monitors the conflict in Syria through a network of sources on the ground, said rebels had been “pillaging private property, political and military sites and shops”.

A prominent rebel leader called for those guilty of looting to be held accountable
Syrian opposition leaders condemned the reports of looting.
“The looting and stealing of private and public property is a crime,” Mohamed Alloush of the rebel group Jaish al-Islam wrote on Twitter. “All those who took part in this decadence need to have their hands slapped hard.”
Abdul Basset Sida, a Kurdish activist who resigned from the opposition National Coalition after the Turkish offensive started, said: “The destruction of the Kawa Haddad statue… and the looting of shops and homes is morally deplorable.”

What will Turkey do next?
By Mark Lowen, BBC Turkey Correspondent
“Turkey’s victory day”; “We’ve written history in Afrin”; “Day of pride” – the verdict of the overwhelmingly pro-government Turkish media reflects the jingoism that’s accompanied Turkey’s two-month offensive.
So will Turkey now move on Manbij, a YPG-held town about 100km (60 miles) to the east? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns that it’s next. But that’s probably an attempt to pressurise Washington to co-operate with Ankara in Manbij and evict the YPG.
Turkey announced such a deal prematurely last week; the US said it wasn’t agreed. The removal of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state has delayed talks on the issue.
There will be pressure on Turkey to bring refugees from Afrin back swiftly. Some Kurds fear Turkey’s aim is demographic change – replacing them with Arabs and Turkmen. Ankara denies it, but the Kurdish majority there might not take kindly to a permanent Turkish and Arab presence.
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In a separate development, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that a bomb blast in a four-storey building in Afrin had killed seven civilians and four rebels overnight.
There was no confirmation from the SOHR, but it reported that at least 13 rebels had been killed and 25 wounded by mine explosions since Sunday.

Some 250,000 civilians are believed to have fled Afrin in recent days
Kurdish authorities said on Sunday that their forces would “switch from direct confrontation to hit-and-run attacks” and that resistance would “continue until every inch of Afrin is liberated”.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross called for its personnel to be given greater access to Afrin, warning that the Turkish Red Crescent lacked credibility among Kurdish civilians.
The SOHR says at least 289 civilians, including 43 children, have been killed in the battle for Afrin. However, the Turkish military denies targeting civilians or civilian infrastructure.
It says more than 3,000 “terrorists” have been “neutralised” – a term it uses to describe those who have surrendered, been captured or killed. The YPG meanwhile says it has killed hundreds of Syrian rebels and Turkish soldiers.

Source: BBC

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