US shoots down Turkish drone flying near its troops in Syria / THE GUARDIAN

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Turkey’s defence ministry says the device did not belong to the country’s armed forces.

October 5, 2023, THE GUARDIAN.

The US has shot down an armed Turkish drone that was operating near its troops in Syria, the first time Washington has brought down an aircraft of its Nato ally.

A Turkish defence ministry official said the drone did not belong to the Turkish armed forces, but did not say whose property it was.

The incident on Thursday came days after Turkey’s national intelligence agency carried out strikes in Syria against Kurdish militant targets after a bomb attack in Ankara last weekend.

The Pentagon spokesperson, Brig Gen Patrick Ryder, said Turkish drones had been seen carrying out airstrikes in Hasakah, Syria on Thursday morning about 1km (0.6 miles) away from US troops.

A few hours later a Turkish drone came within less than half a kilometre of US troops. It was deemed a threat and was shot down by F-16 aircraft.

“We have no indication that Turkey was intentionally targeting US forces,” Ryder told reporters.

The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, spoke with his Turkish counterpart after the incident, a call Ryder said was “fruitful”.

The incident comes at a delicate moment for US-Turkish relations, with the US hoping Turkey will ratify Nato membership for Sweden.

While the US has not shot down a Turkish aircraft before, tensions have flared and there have been close calls. In 2019, US troops in northern Syria came under artillery fire from Turkish positions.

US-allied Syrian Kurdish forces said Turkish attacks had killed eight people in an escalation prompted by the Ankara attack by Kurdish militants.

US support for Kurdish forces in northern Syria has long caused tension with Turkey, which views them as a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). That group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack in Ankara near government buildings.

On Wednesday, Turkey said the two attackers had come from Syria. The bombing killed both attackers and wounded two police officers. The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led force backed by the US, denied that the bombers had passed through its territory.

On Thursday, a Turkish defence ministry official said a ground operation into Syria was one option Turkey could consider. Turkey has mounted several previous incursions into northern Syria against the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) group.

The official said: “Our only goal is to eliminate the terrorist organisations that pose a threat to Turkey. A ground operation is one of the options to eliminate this threat, but it is not the only option for us.”

Security forces in north-eastern Syria said Turkey launched a series of attacks on Thursday with more than 15 drones entering the region’s airspace and hitting targets including oil and gas stations and infrastructure. In a statement, the security forces said Turkish attacks killed six members of the internal security forces in north-eastern Syria and two civilians in two separate strikes.

Turkey has redoubled its operations targeting the PKK by carrying out airstrikes in northern Iraq.

Turkish officials said any infrastructure and energy facilities in Iraq and Syria controlled by the PKK, as well as YPG, were legitimate military targets.

But the YPG is also the spearhead of the main ally of the US-led coalition against Islamic State, and support for the faction by the US and other allies, including France, has strained ties with Turkey.

October 5, 2023, THE GUARDIAN.

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