QAMISHLI, Syria (AP) — The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria called on residents on Saturday to unite against any possible attack by Turkey, warning that such an offensive would lead to a long war.
The statement by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria came a week later Nov. 13, explosion targeted Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue — a popular thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants — and left six people dead, including two children. More than 80 people were also wounded in the attack, which came as a stark reminder of bombings in Turkish cities between 2015 and 2017, crushing the public’s sense of security.
Turkish authorities blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as well as Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with it. The Kurdish militant groups have denied involvement.
Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and already controls some territories in the north.
“At the time when all institutions denied any links to this crime, the Turkish regime insists on its fabrications and lies,” the Kurdish administration said, adding that the threats come ahead of next year’s elections in Turkey.
In neighboring Iraq, the US Consulate General in Erbil said it is monitoring “credible open-source reports” of potential Turkish military action in northern Syria and northern Iraq in the coming days. The US government continues to strongly advise US citizens to avoid these areas, it said.
The US is a strong supporter of Kurdish fighters in northern Syria who played a major role in the battle against the Islamic State group over the past years. The US has hundreds of troops deployed in eastern Syria.
Turkey and Washington both consider the PKK a terror group, but disagree on the status of the Syrian Kurdish groups, which have been allied with the US in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.
The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria said that if Turkey attacks, then fighters in the area will have “the right to resist and defend our areas in a major way that will take the region into a long war.”
On Friday, Turkey’s state news agency said Turkish security forces have detained a wanted suspect in connection with the deadly bombing in Istanbul in an operation in a Turkish-controlled area in northwestern Syria.
The suspect, identified by the code-name “Husam” was apprehended by Turkish police late Wednesday in the Syrian city of Azaz, which is currently under the control of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition, the Anadolu Agency reported.
His detention raised the number of suspects under custody in connection with the bombing to 51.
The PKK has fought an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then.
Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed to this report from Beirut.