BEIRUT,— A car bomb killed at least nine people including four civilians near a pro-Turkey Syrian fighters post in the northern Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin on Sunday, a British-based war monitor said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear who was behind the blast in the city, which was seized from Kurdish forces earlier this year.
The explosion comes after the Turkish president on Wednesday threatened to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).
The Observatory said the car bombing wounded dozens, and the toll was likely to rise.
“The car bomb exploded near a position of pro-Turkey fighters” in a market, killing five civilians and four fighters, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The Kurdish city of Afrin was captured in March 2018 from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) by Turkish armed forces and pro-Ankara Syrian mercenary fighters.
Ankara fears the creation of a Kurdish autonomous region or Kurdish state in Syrian Kurdistan could encourage separatism amongst its own Kurds.
Turkey accuses the YPG of being “terrorists”, but the Kurdish militia also form the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State group in Syria.
The YPG are present in areas along the Turkish border to the east of Afrin.
U.S. regards the Kurdish Democratic Union Party PYD and its powerful military wing YPG/YPJ, as key ally against Islamic State IS and the most effective fighting force against IS in Syria and has provided them with arms, air support as well as the military advisers.
The YPG has seized swathes of Syria from Islamic State.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was planning to launch a new offensive within the “next few days” against the YPG in northern Syria.
A day later, a Turkish soldier was killed in the Afrin region after coming under fire from the YPG, the Turkish defence ministry said.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump agreed with Erdogan “more effective coordination” between both countries in the war-torn country.
American forces are present in an area along the Turkish border east of Afrin, as part of the US-led coalition fighting IS.
Erdogan has strongly criticised Washington’s support for the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighting IS in their last holdout in the far east of the country.
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 involving jihadists and world powers.
In 2013, the PYD — the political branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) — has established three autonomous Cantons of Jazeera, Kobani and Afrin and a Kurdish government across Syrian Kurdistan in 2013.
On March 17, 2016, Kurdish authorities announced the creation of a “federal region” made up of those semi-autonomous regions in Syrian Kurdistan.
Syrian Kurds on December 30, 2016 have approved a blueprint for a system of federal government in Syrian Kurdistan, reaffirming their plans for autonomy in areas they have controlled during the civil war.